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January 9, 2004

Remarkable folly
Posted by Teresa at 01:48 PM *

I got this one from Patrick, who got it from Bruce Sterling. Poppy Z. Brite has been kicked out of an online forum that not only discusses her works, but is named after her. Why? As far as I can tell, because she’s sane and they aren’t.

Comments on Remarkable folly:
#1 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:24 PM:

The odd little thing that caught my eye is that the community's userinfo defines "childfree" as "That means you don't ever want to reproduce. Ever. Not now. Not today. Not tomorrow. If you want to adopt at some time in the future, that's peachy."

(Which, poking around, doesn't appear to be the generally accepted definition of the term, and certainly makes no particular sense.)

#2 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:25 PM:

The adoption bit, I mean, as I see I wasn't clear.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 04:39 PM:

It would be interesting to know how many people there are in that venue, given that it has such cranky and specific specs.

#4 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:05 PM:

Wow. That's just...wow.

Wow.

#5 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:18 PM:

Well, one doesn't have to join the community in order to read it, but there are only 18 members.

#6 ::: Janet Miles ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:21 PM:

It would be interesting to know how many people there are in that venue, given that it has such cranky and specific specs.

The LiveJournal community pbz_bangers has 18 members; 14 of them display the community's posts on their aggregated reading ("friends") page. Four more people display the community on their aggregated reading page but are not members. There is no way to know how many other people might read the community's posts other than on their "friends" page.

#7 ::: JeremyT ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:48 PM:

This quote was particularly interesting regarding their "childfree" aspect:

When I was... eight or so I believe, my much-older cousin became pregnant for the first time. Up until then, she and I had gotten along pretty well, but her unripe crotch-fruit began to kick her one day while she was over at our house. Which was fine- none of my business, right? Wrong. She demanded my sister and I come over and "feel the baby kick". I shook my head and hid in the kitchen. My mother dragged me out. I shuddered visibly when my hand met her stomach.
My cousin has hated me ever since :). And I'm twenty now!--kwobtchan

"Unripe crotch-fruit" has a certain ring to it I guess.

And what is the origin of this term "sprog?"

#8 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:51 PM:

There's something really beautiful and po-mo about that whole incident.

I just wish I knew where those "other communities for insulting one's fans" are. Not that I have many fans yet, but, y'know, I want to get a head start.

#9 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:00 PM:

Seems similar to that old story (anyone remember it better?) about the poet who wandered into a critics' debate on his poetry. At some point, he explained what he had in mind when he wrote it. "How should you know what the poem means," scoffed a critic. "After all, you're only the author."

Or that SF story (my Dad keeps bugging me to dig out the author and title) about Shakespeare resurrected, or snatched to the present via time machine. When asked point blank if he wrote the plays, or Bacon, he says: "Well, there are three main theories on that..."

I've had critics disagree with me about what I meant in specific poems and short stories. I've had (as posted on another thread) the U.S. Government tell me that they think my scientific work is "bullshit." I've had old friends refer to me contemptuously as a "breeder." But I've never been quite as kafka'd as Poppy Z. Brite, whose work, of course, I greatly admire.

#10 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:17 PM:

You know, I skimmed through this "kwobtchan"'s journal, and I'm sorry, the only thing that keeps going through my mind is "What a self-absorbed little bitch!"

#11 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:24 PM:

Don't you think she was being perhaps just the teensiest bit rude? Consider the size of the community in which she made her comments. It would have felt like a bucket of cold water. I found her remarks somewhat ironic, considering the early differences from 'normal' authors that fueled her career. Individual tastes, I reckon. I might add that the mod may not have realized she was indeed herself. Nobody believed Misty was actually going to show up in my back yard until she did...

PS There's that whole church based on SIASL, you know? Some of their scions told me they didn't get along with Heinlein at all.

#12 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:32 PM:

Well, just going by what Poppy Z. Brite wrote about what happened, I'd say she was rude and deserved to be banned.

I might agree that the community itself is a bunch of weirdos - I don't know, I haven't gone there. But if I post a comment on a community that disparages the central tenet of the community, I would expect two things.

One, if it's a discussion community that enjoys getting new people involved, some response: polite, impolite, flame-y.

Two, if it's a community of friends who got together to rabbit on with like-minded people and who really aren't interested in complete strangers showing up to tell them they're nuts, I'd expect to be banned from the community.

That community was apparently named for Poppy Z. Brite does not justify her rudeness nor her arrogance. If I name my house Darkover, that doesn't mean I'm giving permission for Marion Zimmer Bradley to show up and criticise my furniture. (It would be especially spooky if she did, since she's been dead for years, of course.)

There is also the point that if you have a minority taste that other people do not share but feel free to criticise, you may well be all to used to total strangers showing up and thinking they have a perfect right to tell you you're weird. The first time it happens it may be amusing, and you may feel like playing with the stranger. After it happens a certain number of times, frankly you just feel like biting their head off. Poppy Z. Brite may simply have overloaded their quotient of "tolerance for people showing up out of nowhere to criticise".

#13 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:46 PM:

Er. I can't agree that PZB was being rude.

She asked a reasonable question. "Why are you for this? I do this related thing, but I just don't get this. I really would like to know." Everyone who is getting criticism out of this is obviously reading something very different than I am. I wasn't aware it was rude to ask someone why they believe something.

She responds to someone who has dissed something she wrote with "actually, that's not true at all, this is true". Which frankly, as the author of the stuff, I think she had a right to do. That may have been snarky, but it was justified snarky.

She got warned for being "off-topic", when nothing in the LJ userinfo suggests that what she talked about was off-topic, to wit: The child-free bit is in the user info, so it hardly seems off-topic, and the other was a response to an earlier post, which makes it almost positive it's on-topic.

She asked what she wrote that was off-topic and was banned.

Verdict: PZB may have been slightly snarky, but certainly didn't deserve instant, no-discussion knee-jerk banning by self-absorbed anime chick.

Of course, YMM(AOD)V.

People reading this also might be interested in the related LJ Drama thread, however.

#14 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:48 PM:

Oh, also:

"Two, if it's a community of friends who got together to rabbit on with like-minded people and who really aren't interested in complete strangers showing up to tell them they're nuts, I'd expect to be banned from the community."

Actually, I'd expect a closed, friends-locked community. Otherwise, guess what? You're open to the public, you're open to public comment. Why people don't get this, I don't know.

#15 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:54 PM:

30 years ago, it was desperately important to me to identify myself as "childfree" and know I was not alone because normal society was telling me I either didn't exist or was evil. It was like being gay, though of course nowhere near as scary.

#16 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:09 PM:

Actually, I'd expect a closed, friends-locked community. Otherwise, guess what? You're open to the public, you're open to public comment. Why people don't get this, I don't know.

*shrugs* It amazes me how many people don't sit down and read the instructions to find out if they can do something that they want to do. But I'm a (former) technical writer: reading instructions comes naturally to me. I have lots of friends on livejournal and elsewhere who don't think of reading the instructions: and in any case, IMO you have to have a bad experience before it occurs to you to start out with a community that's closed and friends-locked.

Going back and re-reading it, what PZB says she said was "Not that there's anything wrong with parading one's differences, but I don't care for communities where it is a requirement."

My response would have been: "Well, honey, if you don't care for this community, why did you join it? Buzz off." And then, yes, I'd have banned her. There are, presumably, plenty of other communities she could join to tell people discussing her writing that they'd interpreted her wrong.

#17 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:11 PM:

Of course, I'm reacting like this because Poppy Z. Brite sounds very like your average anti-slash fan who joins a slash fan community in order to tell the slash fans that she doesn't care for slash and she doesn't like communities that discuss it. Well, you know, if you don't like slash, if you don't care for communities that discuss slash, don't join them.

#18 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:16 PM:

Being ChildFree means never having to say "The dingo et my baby."

#19 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:16 PM:

Yes, that does about tear it. You and I are reading different things, Yonmei.

I get nothing of what you did from what she posted.

*shrug* Not worth arguing about. I stand by my original interpretation and opinion, you stand by yours, we're good here.

#20 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:19 PM:

if you think the characters in THE VALUE OF X are normal, I can't help thinking you have a great deal to learn about normalcy.

That isn't rude? It's patronizing, at best.

#21 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:28 PM:

I think that given that she was responding to someone characterizing her work as “insipid boy-love novels in which all the characters are annoyingly normal,” she was fairly restrained.

#22 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:51 PM:

Yeah, David, because readers have no right to comment disparagingly on a writer's novels where the writer might read their opinions and get offended. If they do, they ought to expect the writer to jump in on them and explain that they're interpreting her wrong.

Tina - fair enough.

#23 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:01 PM:

JeremyT, "sprog" is a colloquial term for a child or baby. It's fairly common in the UK. It's used here in Oz but a lot wouldn't have heard it.
http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_/sprog.html
I'm not sure about its etymology but the words "spawn" and "sperm" spring to mind. I know it was slang for semen when I was a little sprog.

#24 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:08 PM:

Y’know, Yonmei, I’d say that you’re interpreting me wrong, but that would be just a little too metatextual.

It’s a free planet. Of course a reader has the right to slag an author’s books, even in public. But that reader shouldn’t be surprised if the author takes offense. And where taking offense is concerned, Ms. Brite could have gone much further.

#25 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:13 PM:

David, actually, what I'd expect from a writer aged over (say) 15 would be for the writer to suck in a deep breath and get over it.

#26 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:25 PM:

Well, that’s part of it, too. I don’t actually read Ms. Brite’s comment as a defense of her work. It looks to me like she’s already taken that deep breath and she’s got a valid point to make that has nothing in particular to do with her work — though of course without more context it’s hard to be sure.

On a side note, I hope that when you say “expect” what you mean is “hope”, because otherwise I think you’re in for a lot of disappointment.

#27 ::: kest ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:45 PM:

Many people say 'I think x is wrong!' when what they really mean is 'I don't understand x.' This has the corollary that some of us who are quite used to saying 'I don't understand x' say it, we are assumed to be saying 'I think x is wrong!'

#28 ::: chun the unavoidable ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:49 PM:

You can talk about your Golden Rule, categorical imperative, etc., but making fun of slash fiction is right there with them as far as moral obligations go.

And what in the hell is a Poppy Z. Brite?

#29 ::: Kat ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:15 PM:

Hello, member of the forum here! The funny thing is, the forum isn't actually about Poppy Z. Brite at all. If you read the description, you'll see that it's a joke, based on the fact that her books are somewhat heavier than yaoi manga.

#30 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:22 PM:

I think Poppy noted that she had no wish to join the community, but she had long been curious as to why so many people identify so vehemently with the "childfree" as a primary adjective. The only really snarky bit, I felt, was in that last sentence, where perhaps she attributed one member's remarks to the group as a whole.


I'm no Poppy fan actually, although I did read both Lost Souls and Drawing Blood. (Liked Drawing Blood more, for obvious reasons, but then I'm an artist and a comics geek.) I have no reason to think of Poppy with approbation or otherwise, but I don't think she acted overly inappropriately. I'm a big fan of warning people what the rules are BEFORE slapping them down, if slapping down is required.

#31 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:31 PM:

Unfortunately, Kat, from the description posted it looks like the description/info has been changed since the fracas under discussion (which I'm having some trouble finding on the 'journal just now...).

That said, Poppy makes two comments that I can see as being a bit insulting. 1)"I can't help thinking you have a great deal to learn about normalcy." 2)"I don't care for communities where it is a requirement." I don't think either one was worth more than a shrug of the shoulders; banning Poppy is, in my opinion, an extreme and somewhat immature reaction. But then, this is the internet we're talking about.

#32 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:38 PM:

Yonmei, you appear to be arguing that criticism is a one way street. Fans can criticize authors; authors can't criticize fans. God forbid that a fan "suck in a deep breath and get over it" if an author disagrees with them. Certainly kwobtchan has the power to do what she likes in a community that she mods/owns, but that power doesn't mean her decisions are mature. (If it did, one would have to say that all Bush's decisions were good just because he has the power of the presidency.)

I agree with Jason that a couple sentences in Poppy's post are vaguely snarky, but all in all, it seems to me like a rather diplomatically worded piece of writing that exhibits a genuine desire to understand the community member's point-of-view.

#33 ::: Anon 3.5 ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 09:55 PM:

What none of you are getting is that the journal was never about Poppy she just thought it was. They were making fun of her books really but using them to beat people down.

#34 ::: Kat ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:01 PM:

Yeah, the reasoning behind the community name has certainly changed/been edited, Jason! It had to really, after that piece of drama! :)

#35 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:12 PM:

Hey, Joy, I agree with you, but I think bringing in GWB is skirting awfully close to Godwin’s Law . . .

Anon — We get it, but it’s funnier the other way.

#36 ::: Joy ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:36 PM:

David--Had never heard that phrase before and had to look it up . . . but a fair comment. :) I'll let more articulate souls carry the argument.

#37 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:42 PM:

Well, I can certainly see how Brite's comments might be read as negative. I don't think they are actually, but her tone could have been better. And on the flip side I have to say that my experiences with people who identify as childfree have *not* been positive. I tried hanging out in a usenet group for the same for awhile when I was going through one of my bitter, Oh, I don't have children, I'm not a real person, we aren't a real family, children are the only..., etc. periods some years ago. It was an ugly experience. I've never seen a usenet group fueled by that much bitterness, sarcasm, and vitriol. They all seemed as quick to fly off the handle when questioned as this group. I'm getting a vision of huge chips on very sensitive shoulders. I'd say the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot.

MKK

#38 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 11:44 PM:

Yonmei:

I think Poppy's comments were *somewhat* rude. Not as rude as you think, and well within my bounds of tolerance.

IMVHO, however, banning a person from a community after one post is excessive**. Giving warning, yes -- but allowing them a chance to retract, or defend, or reason first.

Anything else is, well, considerably *ruder* than posting a message that is possibly more condescending than intended, or open to kest's 'I don't understand x' vs 'I think x is wrong!' misinterpretation.

** Yes there are exceptions, but they involve hate mail, death threats, or otherwise legally actionable remarks.

#39 ::: joanna ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 11:56 PM:

Reading the John C. Wright critical episode that David mentioned, I thought Wright's umbrage was lovely and tragic:

"Miss, the book takes place hundreds of thousands of years in the future. These issues will not be fashionable then. I am writing for the ages, not for the present generation only."

Although, considering the "issues" he refers to are basic conservation and environmentalism, I don't see how they could go out of fashion as long as we breathe...
(original reference here http://fantasticadaily.com/misc.php?fID=36 )

#40 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:07 AM:

I see Wright's point, but it would have made more sense for him to argue that the technological capabilities of his imaginary civilizations, rather than the great span of years, renders our contemporary views of the issues moot (which he later does, both directly and by inference).

#41 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:46 AM:

I found Wright's arguments against Cheryl's review to be rather telling -- and not in his favour. Maybe I just ate one "of course" too many, but -- without having read the book -- I got the impression that he unintentionally confirmed most of Cheryl's political critiques without actually realising why she was making them.

Which has set my head to spinning somewhat because (sorry, Cheryl) I don't think it was a very good review, as reviews go, being more of the nature of a diatribe triggered by an allergic reaction to the author's perceived politics. And while my political sympathies are closer to Cheryl's, my literary sensibilities are shrieking "no! no! this is wrong!" about both the review and the response to it.

Aaargh ...

#42 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:05 AM:

Lenora, actually, I agree: PZB's comments were more foolish than rude and banning anyone for a first offense is excessive.

#43 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:06 AM:

On a side note, I hope that when you say 93expect94 what you mean is 93hope94, because otherwise I think you92re in for a lot of disappointment.

*grin* "Expect" in the sense of having high expectations of adults. But really, given how some adults behave, it's more like hope.

#44 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:30 AM:

Joy: you appear to be arguing that criticism is a one way street. Fans can criticize authors; authors can't criticize fans.

Well, yes, I am. To be specific: a fan can criticise what an author writes. That is a function of being free to read and to interpret freely what you read. Some of what comes out of the fan's head may be complete garbage. Some may be brilliant. Most will probably fall somewhere in between.

A writer criticising what a fan writes about what the writer has written is taking a step in the wrong direction. Yes, it is very hard to step back and say nothing when a reader is spouting complete garbage. But, IMO, it's much safer to take the position that you say nothing at any time (unless specifically invited) than to assume that you-the-writer have a right to criticise how your readers read what you wrote. (Does that make sense? I hope so.)

I may start a discussion group about the writings of an author I like to read. That does not necessarily mean I would welcome the writer herself (or himself) to join the group uninvited, or to mix into the discussions by correcting the readerly interpretations of what s/he wrote to what the writer sees as the one true POV. Now that's not exactly what PZB did - but yes, honestly, I think a writer encountering a bunch of fans should think several times "Am I really entitled to do this?" before assuming that s/he will automatically be welcomed into the group just because they're discussing what s/he wrote.

#45 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:32 AM:

In fairness, there's two exceptions to this: If a fan is claiming textual authority for an interpretation that simply isn't there, and if a fan is claiming that s/he knows "What the writer was thinking when s/he wrote this was..."

#46 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:40 AM:

Entitlement? If you run an online forum, blog, list, etc. that allows posting without registration, pre-approval, or other special procedures, anyone who comes along is by default entitled to leave their two cents. Whether they're being rude (or stupid) by doing so is a completely different argument, and the owner/moderator of the forum is quite entitled in turn to, say, disemvowel an egregiously useless and offensive post. Or throw a hissy fit like the PBZ list moderator did. Or delete it. Or replace it with links to Tolkien slash and pictures of kittens (now that makes one grateful for disemvoweling, eh?).

Is it generally wise for an author to hit out in such a fashion? Probably not. But they have just as much "right" to interject on an open board/list as they would if they were interrupting a nearby conversation in the real world. Nobody ever said it was nice or advisable, is all.

#47 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 06:14 AM:

I think there might be an age issue here too - the vast majority of LJ users are in their teens and early twenties, and the impression I've gotten from those affinity communities I've dipped into is that the members desperately want a place where they're Us, and everyone else is Them. I imagine having one of their touchstones drop in to their Safe Place and not be what they've made of her would be a huge shock.

The "childfree" movement has always sort of reminded me of militant anti-deism - there's the same sense that the non-believers are being oppressed by the mere existence of belief, and specific examples of bad behavior on the part of believers seem like fuel to an existing fire.

I feel a little badly for kwobtchan, though. This all reminds me a little of the scene in Annie Hall where the obnoxious pseud on the movie theater line is blathering about McLuhan and McLuhan comes on to call him an idiot. It's a satisfying moment to watch, but definitely ungentle.

#48 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 07:55 AM:

I feel a little badly for kwobtchan, though.

I don't. Kwobtchan, based on her other posts, is just the Internet version of a playground bully, not the big guy who beats kids up, but the alpha girl who says, "We started a club and you can't be in it, nya nya na nya nya." If she wasn't this sort of person, she wouldn't be trumpeting the fact that she Xed Brite from her list. PZB was, in my reading, perfectly polite. While I'm not a huge fan of hers, I did rather enjoy her Jeffrey Dahmer/Dennis Nilsen team-up novel, whose name escapes me at the moment. If she's feeling low, she can take comfort in the fact that she's already gone loads of places that kwobtchan--who is probably beating off over PZB's photo even as we speak--will never, ever go.

#49 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:24 AM:

julia, interesting remark about the connection between self-IDing childfree folk and anti-deist folk, both feeling oppressed by the existence of belief.

I wouldn't be surprised if they a lot of pressure growing up to be enchilded/ religious, respectively, and are simply going through the pushback phase. I know I certainly went through that, in my twenties.


-l.

#50 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:50 AM:

I don't. Kwobtchan, based on her other posts, is just the Internet version of a playground bully, not the big guy who beats kids up, but the alpha girl who says, "We started a club and you can't be in it, nya nya na nya nya."

One of the reasons online community has been kind of dispiriting to me is that I've seen a lot of people who grew up isolated become scarifying bullies when the get the chance, as if the shark dance of their childhoods was what they were outside of when they missed the sense of community. I had lots of illusions about community myself (most of them woefully uninformed) and when I see people swimming around like the alpha fish, I always think they look as if they've been through the intestines of a shark and it makes me kind of sad.

Obviously I'm projecting madly, and it doesn't do anyone who gets bullied now any good, but I still have a tendresse for my utopian youthful illusions.

I don't see how Ms. Brite could have known what she was stepping into, though.

I wouldn't be surprised if they a lot of pressure growing up to be enchilded/ religious, respectively, and are simply going through the pushback phase. I know I certainly went through that, in my twenties.

You know, I wonder about that too - it seems like such a shame, though, because as long as you're focussed on one side or another of the question, you haven't really escaped. I'm (against all odds or expectations) childed, and it seems to me such a luxury, if you don't choose to be a parent, to be able to put your time and energy into other things.

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 08:53 AM:

I never would have heard of PZB at all if not for this post, which means I never would have heard of him or her if this incident hadn't happened.

I won't judge PZB's books without looking at them, but from the brief references thrown here, they really sound like Not My Thing; I probably won't read them. I'm as fond of boy-love novels as the next dirty old f****t you know (though not insipid ones), but it doesn't sound like that's an accurate description. (I'm assuming here that 'boy-love novels' means novels about teenage boys falling in love with each other, and not NAMBLA porn, which I find deeply offensive.)

As far as the owner of the forum, who has done something very silly and immature and then bragged about it, I think my response can be summed up by "point and laugh."

#52 ::: yrllsshts ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:54 AM:

Y ppl r ll slf rgths prcks.

#53 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:57 AM:

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think there's a Piece of California speak. 'I'm religious about that' or 'That's part of my religion'. A verbal fending off A signalling tha\t one aint entirely rational about a subject.
Like 'poitically correct' it can take a multitude of subtle distingtions.On one side of the spectrum it can be a friendly 'Hey we're just shooting the breeze here don't get heavy' on the other side it can be a blunt fist in the face 'If you don't take my sacred cows with the reverace due to the virtue of your mother. I have the right to verbally chastise you AND/OR if I've got my friends with me get physical'
Poppy poor thing thought she was living in a country with free speech

#54 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:07 AM:

Gosh, yourallasshats, what a self-parody you are. Pathetic, spelling-challenged, begin with "you people" (spelt wrong). The stereotype of a person who will be deleted and banned.

(Disclaimer: only Teresa herself can make the final judgement about banning someone or deleting hir post.)

#55 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:15 AM:

Jonathan vos Post wrote:

Seems similar to that old story (anyone remember it better?) about the poet who wandered into a critics' debate on his poetry. At some point, he explained what he had in mind when he wrote it. "How should you know what the poem means," scoffed a critic. "After all, you're only the author."
For what it's worth, I agree with the critic. The author knows what he or she was trying to do; but what the rest of the world makes of it, and the uses to which they put it, are something else again. Meaning is a transaction, not a pronouncement. That's one of several reasons I'm often sympathetic to fanfic writers facing attacks by angry authors.

That said, it doesn't look to me like PZB was particularly badly behaved, or trying to assert any kind of over-the-top auctorial privilege. Mostly, it seems she was asking questions, and getting nutty overreactions as a result.

Yonmei writes:

There is also the point that if you have a minority taste that other people do not share but feel free to criticise, you may well be all to used to total strangers showing up and thinking they have a perfect right to tell you you're weird. The first time it happens it may be amusing, and you may feel like playing with the stranger. After it happens a certain number of times, frankly you just feel like biting their head off. Poppy Z. Brite may simply have overloaded their quotient of "tolerance for people showing up out of nowhere to criticise".
Not for the first time, I'm moved to observe that we are not responsible for what we do in other people's dreams. That's one of several reasons I'm often sympathetic to authors facing attacks by crazy fans.

#56 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 12:33 PM:

GOD BANNED FROM ATHEISM BLOG

04/01/04, Paradena, CA: In an action which immediately gained international attention and was denouced by the Vatican, Iran's Supreme Ayatollah, and a coalition of Hindu leaders, the "God, No!" blog banned God from any further postings on their internet site.

According to webmaster Frank F. Freethinker, "some jerk who claimed to be the Creator started spamming our legitimate site with obnoxious and rude questions."

The blog, which gets over 100,000 pageviews per week, was previously engaged in internal debate about attempts to provide a consensus definition of atheism.

Then a new and unregistered reader asked for a clarification of the differentiation between "weak" and "strong" atheism.

His first posting read: "Paul Henri Holbach, in 1772, wrote what was probably the first openly atheistic book ever published, The System of Nature. In another book, Good Sense, he stated that 'All children are atheists, they have no idea of God.' This statement only makes sense if the term 'atheism' includes a passive sense which does not mean the explicit denial of the existence of any gods. Rights?"

Several dozen bloggers immediately attacked this posting, and its author, on the atheism blog.

The mysterious visitor answered the questions asked of him, brushed aside ad hominem attacks, and asked his second question, citing Charles Bradlaugh, who was one of England's leading atheists and freethinkers in the 19th century. Bradlaugh wrote in 1876 in his book The Freethinker's Text Book:

"Atheism is without God. It does not assert no God. The atheist does not say that there is no God, but he says 'I know not what you mean by God. I am without the idea of God. The word God to me is a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation. I do not deny God, because I cannot deny that of which I have no conception, and the conception of which by its affirmer is so imperfect that he is unable to define it for me."

This time, more than a hundred bloggers furiously responded that they did, indeed, deny God, and who was this grotesque lunatic to deny them the right to deny god (which most spelled in lower-case).

The newcomer asked a third question. He quoted from Annie Besant. Before she became a Theosophist, Besant was one of England's most well known atheists and advocates of freethought. In her 1877 book The Gospel of Atheism, she stated:

"The position of the atheist is a clear and reasonable one. I know nothing about God and therefore I do not believe in Him or it. What you tell me about your God is self-contradictory and is therefore incredible. I do not deny 'God,' which is an unknown tongue to me. I do deny your God, who is an impossibility. I am without God." He concluded with a citation to Chapman Cohen, President of Britain's National Secular Society and author of numerous works about atheism and freethought, who wrote in Deity and Design that:

"Atheism, the absence of belief in gods, is a comparatively late phenomenon in history."

At that point, the webmaster banned God from any further postings. This, said Freethinker, should have ended the matter.

"But no matter what filtering software we used, the idiot kep posting. He quoted from Job, he quoted from G.W. Foote, Edward Royle, Carlile, Southwell, Cooper, and Holyoake. He kept making the outrageous and insulting accusal that, logically, our kind of atheism did not prove that there was no God."

A few bloggers shifted slightly to a compromise position that placed the onus probandi on those who affirmed the existence of God. Some said that they regarded themselves as atheists only in his inability to believe what the churches would have them believe. They were content to show that the Christian concept of the supernatural was meaningless, that the arguments in its favor were illogical, and that the mysteries of the universe, insofar as they were explicable, could be accounted for in material terms. Freenthinker expelled those compromisers.

"And then he started spamming our home email addresses, who knows how he got them? Finally, all the water in our homes turned to wine, our ISP cafeteria was overflowing with noninvoiced loaves and fishes," and that was just the beginning.

The Dalai Lama gave a widely televised press conference. He said that anyone, even god, should be free to deny the existence of god, if that brought them inner peace. But he emphasized that the internet was part of Buddha nature, and should allow for all voices, and all styles of music.

Freethinker's wife and family died in a tragic accident. His business went bankrupt overnight. He was last seen wandering downtown Paradena in sackcloth and ashes. "Why me?" he asked pedestrians?

All screens of all computers on Colorado Boulevard immediately scrolled a new posting from God.

But before Freethinker could read it, a trumpet sounded at glass-cracking intensity, and angels with swords of fire descended.

After that... well, we all know.

This press bureau is now being moved to Jerusalem, where The Temple has been rebuilt. We apologize for any interruption.


#57 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 12:35 PM:

Yonmei, I think you're wrong here. It wasn't a closed group. It was, for pete's sake, named after Poppy Z. Brite. And it was discussing her work.

Of course writers have the right to criticize fans, just as fans have the right to criticize writers. I don't mean there's parity between the two classes; I mean there's no distinction between them, social or otherwise.

I've always despised the idea that pros and fans are separate classes, with separate roles, responsibilities, and privileges. In the SF community, the default assumption is that they're not inherently separate classes; but the idea that they are is a recurrent error. I can't tell you how much damage I've seen it do.

At one end of the spectrum, it's the basis of the idea that when you're putting together a convention program, anyone who's ever made a professional fiction sale is a more valuable participant than anyone who hasn't, even if the former is a lightweight loudmouth who got lucky with a novelty Christmas short-short, and the latter's been a respected critic for the last twenty years. In the center of the spectrum, that error is a major factor in the failure to understand that conventions aren't a paid ticketed entertainment event, but rather are the community cooperatively getting together to talk to itself. At the other end of the spectrum, it somehow begets the idea that it's all right to be grossly rude to pros and BNFs, and to publicly attack them, and to draft them to act as characters in your own little psychodramas, because they're so distant and mighty that it somehow doesn't count the way it would with real people.

I didn't ask you for your credentials when you first showed up, I don't have different sets of rules here for pros and non-pros. We're all human beings. We come together, in person and online, as members of the same great multipart ongoing conversation.

I'm trying to view with dispassion this idea of yours that a writer coming into a publicly accessible forum (whether or not it's discussing their work) (whether or not the forum itself is named after them) should say nothing at any time unless specifically invited to do so; and furthermore, is so obviously in the wrong if they assume they have the same right to speak to the matter under discussion that anyone else coming in would have, that it's not only justifiable but practically laudable to treat them as rudely as Kwobtchan treated Poppy Brite.

I have trouble viewing that with dispassion.

Here's the blunt version. Are you not aware that you yourself are frequently ruder than Poppy Brite was in that group? And has it not occurred to you that by the rules you've been laying down in this discussion, I should have thrown you out of here within a week or two of your arrival?

You may or may not regard "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" as the law, but it's still a good idea.

#58 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 12:36 PM:

I certainly hope, for authordom's sake, that you're sympathetic to them when attacked by off-balance fans -- when the keeper fails to sympathize with his charges, things go badly.

#59 ::: Martial ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:24 PM:

I read P Brite's single post as two unrelated ones. The first post wonders about "childfree", while the second is responding to a comment about the book "THE VALUE OF X". I think, based upon her comments, that this is also how Brite intended her post to be read: as containing two distinct points.

Unfortunately, reading the two together, it is all too easy to take the commentary on the book as also referring to the childfree community concept. In particular, the last sentence, "Not that there's anything wrong with parading one's differences, but I don't care for communities where it is a requirement", read in that light happens to come across as quite rude.

While I did not "read" the post as rude, I have some sympathy for the members of the community. The mysterious kwobtchan, no matter how we might feel about her response, is interpreting the offered text. The reason the text comes across as rude is because the word "communities" in that last sentence, appears to refer back to the question about community self-definition in the previous paragraph.

Hasty and incautious writing combined with hasty and chip-on-the-shoulder reading reminds me of nothing so much as 90% of internet interaction. Apologies are probably due all around and a new start between the players called for.

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:26 PM:

BSD, I'm not their keeper, they're not my charges. I sympathize with both sides. Actually, I don't think there are sides. I think there are people.

I'm a fan and a pro. I've seen good behavior and bad from fans and from pros. Some of the bad behavior's been aimed at me. Speaking as a test case, I can tell you that relative publication status didn't make a bit of difference.

The core SF community, what I have in mind when I refer to "fandom", is relatively well behaved. If you compare overall groups -- say, fandom to SFWA -- it certainly doesn't suffer in the comparison.

Some authors get a bad impression of fans because, when they go to a convention, the more polite and thoughtful fans are reticent around them. They don't want to impose. Unfortunately, this can mean they wind up meeting only those fans who don't think about such things. The line Patrick and I always use when we're explaining this phenomenon is, "In fandom, we have a special term for those people. We call them 'jerks'."

I've seen occasions when authors were mightily rude to fans. But since those same authors were just as prone to be rude to other authors, the only conclusion I could draw was that they were rude.

#61 ::: Kim Wells ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 03:38 PM:

I frequently post to the Neil Gaiman community, and there are sections there devoted to "off topic" non-Neil related posts. The moderator, who I would say is really reasonable & MODERATE moves topics around, and presumably has the power to ban someone (although I've never seen it happen.) But as far as we know, Neil himself doesn't frequent the board. If he were to come on and start calling us all snarky, we'd probably be a bit upset. BUT banning him after one post which was not really "off topic" would be really strange I think.

But then, if it's your forum, don't you have a right to control what exists on/in it? I don't mean Neil-- I don't think it's actually HIS forum-- he didn't start it, they just named it after him. It "belongs" to those who post and created it.

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 04:01 PM:

Note: The now-disemvowelled "You people" (actually "You peoeple") message posted at 9:54 this morning came from the same source as last night's message from "anon3.5@dontemailme.com". That's the one that said:

What none of you are getting is that the journal was never about Poppy she just thought it was. They were making fun of her books really but using them to beat people down.
I found that oddly unpleasant at the time, and still do.

If anyone's bored and wants to play with it, the IP address is 24.1.175.159.

#63 ::: nina ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 04:23 PM:

Julia 97

t seems like such a shame, though, because as long as you're focussed on one side or another of the question, you haven't really escaped.

*sigh* Where were you and this gleaming bit of truth ten years ago? You could've saved me a bundle in therapy fees.

#64 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 04:42 PM:

I agree with nina, julia. Nice observation.


-l.

#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 05:42 PM:

Good reading, Martial. I agree that PZB's post consists of two separate comments, and that if your hypothetical reconstruction of Kwobtchan's reading is correct, she misread it.

(Pause here for something I should have said earlier in this discussion. I could point out Poppy Z. Brite if we were both at a Nebula banquet, and I believe I've been introduced to her at some point, but we're not acquainted, and whatever gods speak through her writing aren't gods that speak to me. When it comes to what she says and what she means by it, I claim no special knowledge. End of disclaimer.)

It may have been hasty and incautious (as you put it) to mention both bonding and community when no specific linkage was intended, but I'm not surprised that it happened. Poppy Brite is an author, a fiction writer. She'd stumbled on a group for whom her works apparently had some shared significance or meaning. All authors are unusual, but she'd have to be an exceptionally unusual one for the question, What does my work mean to you as a group?, to not be uppermost in her mind.

You're kinder and more forgiving than I am about the hypothetical misreading. I'm more inclined to think that someone who can spot the linkage between "communities" and "bonding" should also be able to figure out that those are two separate comments. And by me, a person who begins by saying "there's a question I've wondered about, but couldn't ask for fear of seeming like a troll; perhaps I can ask it here?" is clearly hoping for a non-hostile response.

Kim, I'll agree that forums belong to the people who make and inhabit them. I don't see it as a matter of rights so much as manners.

Just curious: what kind of "reasonable & moderate" is that? What are the rules there?

And one more general observation. It's been interesting watching the word "snarky", which PZB used to characterize an earlier comment posted to that group, migrate over and attach itself to people's descriptions of her response.

#66 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 06:40 PM:
If anyone's bored and wants to play with [anonymous jerk], the IP address is 24.1.175.159.

All I can derive from that is that the poster gets their Internet connection from Comcast (as do I), and that they are probably in Texas. However, I claim no special expertise in such investigation.

#67 ::: Natalie ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:49 PM:

Unfortunately, I have a bit of experience with this. I help moderate a large mailing list devoted to discussing the works of a dead Golden Age mystery novelist. Her final book in the series was never finished--she ceased working on it right around the time of Edward's abdication. About 5 years ago, the author's estate commissioned a British author who had been shortlisted for the Booker prize to complete the novel. Purists (of which I am one) were outraged. About 2 years ago, we were discussing the book, its merits, and whether or not it should have been completed. I posted a highly critical comment about the estate's decision to complete the novel, and the Author (who had been a member of the list for years but who rarely deigned to comment and was always nomail unless the book she'd completed was being discussed) was outraged. What outraged her even more was that I refused to apologize (I did not insult her or her work, I was critical of a decision the estate had made). She then went on to deliberately break any number of rules in our community, chief among them being that offlist communications remain offlist. When called on it, she felt that she was exempt from the rules because she was an Author.

After giving her plenty of opportunities to stop expecting exemptions from the rules, which she disregarded, we banned her. We treat all members the same, whether Authors or Fans).

What I'm trying to say is that the members of online communities--even if ones open to the public--have the right to decide who they want to participate. Particularly if someone comes into the community and posts with apparently little idea of what the community is really about or the conventions that members of the community abide by when posting. I wonder how long Brite read the community before she posted. I also wonder if she bothered to let them know that she was reading before her post which caused all the brouhaha. Because, frankly, her questions read--to me--as pretty patronizing, as if she expected the members of the community to fall all over themselves because she was supposedly the object of their affection. And when they didn't, and in fact made it clear that her presence wasn't welcome, she got peevish.

I'm not saying that Authors and Fans (and Critics) shouldn't intermingle--in fact, it's a lovely thing being able to ask a varied group of people about a text. However, having an Author present can often inhibit free discussion, particularly if the Author doesn't respect the community and, in my opinion, Brite didn't respect this one.

Of course, I'm biased because I loathe Brite's writing with the passion of a thousand fiery suns: Lost Souls is the only book I have ever felt the urge to burn.

#68 ::: Neil Gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:12 PM:

Well, if I posted over at the neilgaiman.com board I'd expect the same amount of respect and politeness that anyone gets; and if I was out of line (eg "How dare you all say that A GAME OF YOU was not the single greatest work of literature of all time! I shall hunt you down one by one and you shall die unspeakable yet appropriate deaths! hahahahaha!") I'd hope at least for a gentle "that's not how we do things here" warning before being banned from the playground.

I long ago -- probably around 1991 -- decided not to post places that people gathered to talk about what I wrote, because it seemed easier and more sensible that way. But that's me. I certainly think that an author has every right to talk to people talking about the author or the work, and no obligation to suffer nobly and in silence the criticism of twits or the wise. Still, it's not a battle any author will ever win (I've watched many of them try and fail), and it's much easier to just shrug and think "the dogs bark and the caravan move on" or something equally reassuring, and go back to work. No-one's ever going to like everything you do, nor should they. (I would take much more seriously the repeated criticism of "ENDLESS NIGHTS" that it's 3 or 4 good stories and 3 or 4 sub-par ones if there was any kind of consensus on which the good ones were and which the bad.)

On the Poppy Z Brite front, I *highly* recommend her forthcoming novel, Liquor, which is a very readable, funny novel about two young chefs trying to make a go of things in the restaurant business in New Orleans. No cannibalism, vampirism, gothiness or dark. It's more like one wishes the novels of Anthony Bourdain were (rather than his non-fiction, which it feels a lot like).

#69 ::: Kat ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:40 PM:

Miss Brite's final comments were basically the last straw after fans of her horror/vampire works (I think she insists they are not that, or it might be that she resents being called a horror/vamp author. Genre check, anyone?) were often referred to a baby bats, a favourite phrase of hers.
Really, Miss Brite represents many fan's secret fear - that really the person you admire (be it a writer, actor, director, or what have you) doesn't actually like you!

...A moot point really, because if I haven't made it completely clear, what many people are not taking into account was the name was a JOKE, and the comm was NOT for discussing Miss Brite. Looking at the comm description (as it was then, at least) would really have helped, and avoided all this nonsense!

***

Finally, as you may well have guessed, Kwobtchan is a friend of mine and it upsets me that some people here are intent on psychoanalyzing her. So her journal's self-absorbed? Basically, there are two types of journal. Ones like this which anticipate an anonymous audience and write to that audience, and the other 90% which are written for friends and for yourself.
And playground bully? No. Miss Brite turns up in a tiny comm which names itself after her books because they are easier to hit people over the head with(!), singles out her friend who had said she didn't like certain aspects of her books, after having a history of snide remarks about fans, then whines about being told off because it means she isn't one of the 'Cool Kids', and THEN whines about it in her journal encouraging everyone to visit the link (which obviously led to flames). It was only after a prolonged 'discussion', that she was banned. The post was deleted, and we are only left with Miss Brite's account.

#70 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 11:03 PM:

Looking at the comm description (as it was then, at least)

and

The post was deleted, and we are only left with Miss Brite's account.

Which raises the interesting question of what I would do if I were ever in an analogous situation. I know people who have had highly unpleasant flamewars (curse fandom_wank, anyway) erupt on their journals and deleted the posts
because it was too upsetting, and I would never tell them that they shouldn't have. But one does end up with the problem here, that any further discussions can't refer to the source.

(LJ does not allow the editing of comments, so disemvoweling or the like are not possible. It does allow retroactively making the post visible to only a selected group of logged-in people.)

Have other people here had similar situations, and what have you done?

#71 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 11:10 PM:

Just as a note, the "prolonged discussion" lasted at most four hours. Even by internet time, that's not very "prolonged".

(I'm not a dispassionate observer in this. Poppy is the person to whom I am not related who has been my friend the longest time. And I have a very strong sense of what behavior online is appropriate, and also of who in this encounter has behaved appropriately.)

#72 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 11:20 PM:

Kat — I guess I’m not clear on what it means in that community to hit someone over the head with a book; but you can hardly blame us for taking the whole thing out of context when we can’t see the context, can you?

#73 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:26 AM:

Kate - here's my war story:

I've been trying to learn to write full time for 2.5 years. I decided to start with something with clear guidelines, so it was my goal to write a romance novel. I joined an online comm of romance writers (sponsored by a publisher) and have been thrown off 4 times, over stuff that amounted to lazy reading, sloppy (on my part)posting or personal differences that made me undesirable in that forum (once I made the mistake of asking why there are no 'Inspirational Romance' books with faiths other than Christian).

My side of it is that I don't always phrase things the way most people would (it takes time to learn these things) due to a brain injury that makes me verbal but not as fluent as I'd like to be. So, what do I do? I go away for a while, then after a few months, I come back and see if they've cooled down. I've found that trying to explain that someone has misunderstood me is not helpful. The mod told me my first post made me sound like I was walking in with a biohazard sticker on my butt. She always deletes all my posts whenever she bans me, so no one can go back and see what it was that set it off. Sheesh...

Anyhow, I actually appreciate it when someone explains to me why they're upset, but for the most part folks will write you off as not worth the effort if you sound like someone who doesn't agree with them, right? It takes quite a while to learn to fit in and sometimes, in spite of ones's best efforts, it just doesn't work.

I've invited the mod to come out and meet me (we put on a small con where she would be most welcome) and she hasn't. Some 20 of the other folks from the comm have, though, and everyone's still speaking to me. I don't expect everyone to like me, but I do know that groups form outside the bounds of what can be seen publicly and lobby whenever I've been thrown off, to get them to do it, that is. It would be easy to say it's just because I speak up whenever someone uses the word witch as a perjorative or I obviously fail to understand that part of the charm of a Native American hero is that he always, in every book, drifts into a fugue state wherein he envisions his Indian grandmother, in her braids, sending him some words of wisdom. But really, it's probably because I'm a jerk sometimes.

Too bad we don't all have our baggage stickers where everyone can see them, eh?


#74 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 02:31 AM:

PS the Mormons kicked me out, too.

#75 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 03:27 AM:

There are inspirational romance novels? Like... no I can't type it, I can't begin to imagine what that means. Are the characters just really spiritual? Are they hot steamy honeymoon scenes? Are some characters devine?

I want to make all sorts of jokes about non-christian inspirational romance novels, but when I type them they seem to be in such bad taste.

#76 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:10 AM:

Rachel: I know you're only joking by pretending to be snarky, and Karen, I know you're trying to be literary and feel attacked by authors who don't share your reference frame. I assure you, I put my foot in my mouth more than both of you combined. So please take this in a constructive way.

My primary genres are science, math, computers, science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, thrillers, westerns, and poetry. BUT there is no reason to be snarky about Romance. Romance is a wonderful field, with over 8,000 professional authors in RWA (Romance Writers of America), whose readers buy more books than all Science Fiction readers combined. Now, they can't all be wrong, can they? And, notwithstanding my spoof in this thread about God being banned from an Atheist blog, there's no reason to belittle Inspirational Romance as a subgenre. Although most writers can take a good joke, if you can suggest one...

For definitions, and examples, see:

"Romance Subgenres" at
http://www.magicdragon.com/ROgens.html

and/or

"Romance Definitions."

This is more than slightly self-serving, as I created those pages. But I also feel a desire to defend those authors and editors and readers.

I think the themesong is:

"Don't rain on my parade."

#77 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:15 AM:

Umm, I was busy frothing at the mouth and missed the second URL:

"Romance Definitions"

http://www.magicdragon.com/ROdefs.html

I am working on a Unified Field Theory of Genres, and believe that many authors of other genres belittle Romance out of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the many ways in which that field is expanding and its marketing is splintering into interesting sub-sub-genres.

Pity that Jane Austen didn't write science fiction, eh?

#78 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 06:09 AM:

Kat writes:

"The post was deleted, and we are only left with Miss Brite's account."

Shame the post was deleted, then.

Also, as a general rule, if you *don't* want someone to show up on your site, or in your discussion (or whatever), don't name the discussion (or whatever) after them (and especially, I would think, don't name them after authors, who are by nature curious about being fictional creatures in someone else's universe). Thanks to the twin powers of search engines and personal vanity, putting someone's name on something on the Internet is tantamount to inviting their presence, not unlike (depending on your perspective) invoking angels or demons. And we all know how much trouble that class of creature can be.

Henceforth, the above observation is to be known as the Law of Internet Invocation: "If you name them, they will come."

This is assuming no one else has yet made this observation (which I'm sure someone has).

#79 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 07:47 AM:

Kat: I don't call Kwobtchan self-absorbed because she writes about herself. It's the way she writes what she writes. It all comes off, to me, as one big session of jumping up and down, waving her arms, asking people to admit she's the center of the universe.

Just for the record.

Of course, I don't have to like her, though neither do I don't say you shouldn't (you can like whomever you please). I don't have to deal with her; this little incident assures that even if I were interested in any LJ communities she was in, I would avoid them like the plague, so whether or not I like her is even besides the point. But on this particular topic, I happen to think she (and her defenders) are in the wrong, and overall I'm completely unimpressed with her behavior and personality as exhibited.

Also, if you persist in thinking of PZB as a vampire fiction author, you haven't been paying attention. Really.

JvP: Um, arguing that something is popular, therefore it must be good, is not the way to go with me. I dislike 99.5% of romance novels myself, and no, it holds no sway with me that millions of people disagree. Millions of people like Britney Spears, too.

I'm not saying there aren't good romance novels or good authors of same, I am just saying your argument for why to think so is completely specious.

The way to go here, as far as I'm concerned, is to recommend specific books that stand a chance of changing someone's mind. YMM(AOD)V.

(Along which lines, I recommend The Thorn Birds as an example of a terrific historical romance.)

#80 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:14 AM:

For me, the childfree group's default graphic tells it all: Baby. Or ecstacy. There's a choice. Childfree.

Based on their graphic, the term seems to mean took so much ecstacy that we're not bound by social rules. Encounters with parents and children can be especially burdensome to grandious psychotics damaged by too many drugs.

#81 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:45 AM:

The various readings of PZB's post are an excellent illustration of Patrick's point The author knows what he or she was trying to do; but what the rest of the world makes of it, and the uses to which they put it, are something else again. For what it's worth, I read her post as arguing a point (whether her characters were normal) which should be relatively factual -- but which could be a match to gasoline among people who have a thing about being different. (A mindset which may or may not have been clear from the description of the group -- did anyone save a shot of the description before the change?)Combining it with a question about beliefs -- even one that I don't think can be fairly read as "Why do you think you are so superior?" -- can make the sensitive even more so.

Oliver Wendell Holmes essayed a more focused view of Patrick's point, observing that in any two-person conversation there are actually six people: the ]real[ people, and each person's view of himself and the other party. This suggests that it's a bad idea to respond to (snark) with (snark)^2; (snark) is what you think your version of the other party intended, not necessarily what was planned by either of that party's other aspects. ((snark)^2 can be a good purgative -- I know people who write "Dear Toad" letters, then tear them up and send something that at least isn't a direct attack -- but letting it out usually just raises the noise level.) Publishing of any sort (words, sounds, visuals, ...) is complicated by the size&variability of the audience, and the lack of conversational feedback (even the little bit a public speaker gets), so the creater has a much more limited understanding of the audience -- and IMO is often better off without more detail; it's unclear the pre-screenings of movies and TV shows do much beside making them more bland.

#82 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:59 AM:

I've come to two rules through bitter experience:

The smaller the on-line community, the likelier to be misunderstood.

The the further from the norm the on-line community, the likelier to be misunderstood.

(By the way, what are the rules of usage regarding "on line", "on-line", and "online"? I'm old and, if not actually in the way, certainly out-of-date, and wouldn't mind learning.)

On here, I come across (I hope!) as a fairly reasonable, if highly opinionated, person.

However, in other places...well, I've been tossed out of a small number, and gotten lots of people really pissed at me on others. When I meet said pissed-off people in person, they usually (though not always) say something like, "Gee, you're a lot nicer than you seem on line." Often they follow that up by saying so on line to someone else that I've pissed off.

Over the years, I've learned to write differently on line than in print, and that's cut down a certain amount of the pissed-offedness, but there's still a certain amount that comes to me. Some of that is stll me, I'm sure, but a higher percentage is other people. It's lessened greatly now that my political views have become more mainstream, which led me to my third rule:

Marginal movements draw marginal people.

#83 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:19 AM:

Adam:

  1. “The discussion was on line.”
  2. “It was an on-line discussion.”
  3. “It was not, however, discussed on America Online.”
Not that I expect the world to agree with me. :)

#84 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 11:37 AM:

Marginal movements draw marginal people.

Good aphorism.

#85 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:52 PM:

I don't think it's a priori ridiculous to want to discuss an author's books without having that author jump in and talk about other stuff. (It doesn't sound like that's what happened here at all, though.) I really enjoy the works of several authors whose opinions about some political topics offend me.

But I do think that the Invocation law is right. If you were holding a WorldCon discussion about someone's work, you couldn't guarantee that it would make them show up so you could become their bestest friend in the whole wide world. But saying, "Author X Discussion Group meets here," and then expecting Author X to always automatically stay away...doesn't seem so smart. And I think the internet is like that. We don't always get to say, "But what I wanted was this!" and have everyone else back off and say, "Oh, well, if that's what you wanted, by all means."

The world does not conform itself to our expectations. Go figure. Is it just me, or does the internet seem to make this harder for people to remember?

#86 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:03 PM:

Tina: you make a logically correct point in saying:
"JvP: Um, arguing that something is popular, therefore it must be good, is not the way to go with me. I dislike 99.5% of romance novels myself, and no, it holds no sway with me that millions of people disagree. Millions of people like Britney Spears, too. I'm not saying there aren't good romance novels or good authors of same, I am just saying your argument for why to think so is completely specious."

True. Your 99.5% suggests a compromise position, which might run like this:

(1) Sturgeon's Law says that 90% of Science Fiction is crap.

(2) There are other genres than Science Fiction.

(3) For each another genre (i.e. fantasy, horror, mystery, thrillers, westerns, war, comedy, poetry, etc.) there is, for a given oberver or set of observers, a different number X such that X% of that genre is crap.

A specific flaw in my original argument may be that the very large number of RWA authors (8,400, say) and large readership (heavily skewed female, midwest or south), and large volume of sales (1/3 of all book fiction in North America or 1/6 of all book sales in NA) has a supply/demand effect that forces quality down to keep title flow up and thus speed of composition.

You make another constructive point in suggesting that one recommend specific titles. For instance, of the films I saw last year, I rank Return of the Kings as #1, yet also put a Romance in the top 10, namely "I Capture the Castle." That film, brilliantly adapted from the bestselling novel by the author best known for "101 Dalmatians," and shares the fun (for me) that the narrator and her father are both eccentric writers.

Romance makes up a huge percentage of all movies. See a listing of 1,000+ "best" titles, ever, and by year, and alphabetically, in another of my pages:

"Romance Movies"
http://www.magicdragon.com/ROfilms.html

And thank you again for clarifying my specious argument, thus forcing me to dig deeper for a good one.

#87 ::: Susan Marie Groppi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:05 PM:

This whole fuss-up has some interesting parallels to something that happened on Television Without Pity a couple of years ago. TWoP, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a site devoted to (partly affectionate, but mostly snide) recaps of popular television shows. It's a hugely popular site with very active message boards and a large reader/poster community. My memory for the chronology is a little shaky, but there was a point a while back where Aaron Sorkin discovered the site and started posting on the West Wing message boards. The TWoP message boards are moderated with a fairly heavy hand (I think too heavy, but maybe I should have some more sympathy for the moderators), and Sorkin managed to break a couple of rules, be outraged, and then get banned.

Sorkin did them one better, though, in the West Wing episode where Josh discovers an internet fan site, pisses off the "internet people", and gets banned.

#88 ::: Kat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 01:30 PM:

Kevin: Please try to understand that there were a lot of people pouring in by then from both Poppy's LJ and Fandom_Wank, which equals a LOT of internet time! ;) I know there were about fifty comments two hours afterwards.

David: Oh, I realise that! That's why I'm here to provide context. :) I thought that it might shed a different light on things if it was pointed out that it wasn't a fan forum for PZB, but discussing something completely different.

John: Don't name an unrelated discussion after someone? Yes, I agree completely on that point.

Tina: Ah, well, I guess you'll just have to take it from me that Kwobt's actually a lovely person, and great fun to talk to! :) As this conversation is taking place about a week (I think?) after it all happened, please bear in mind that you can't view the full story. I really do understand why you will be biased in this! :)
Regarding the vampire/horror thing, please reread what I wrote (pay attention yourself! *grin*). I never called her a writer of this genre, but I said there were fans of her horror/vamp works and if anyone could give me a better genre description for Lost Souls and Drawing Blood (that the author agrees with was the implication, but perhaps that wasn't clear).

Kathryn: That dig at Childfree was a little uncalled for, don't you think? Please consider why such people are so defensive when a simple wish not to have to have children is considered fair game in an argument like this.

#89 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:42 PM:

a simple wish not to have to have children is considered fair game in an argument like this

I get the impression that someone who refers to my child as "crotchfruit" is a little more interested in my reproductive decisions than I am in theirs, and more than a little more interested in arguing about it.

I'm not a huge romance fan, but my mother-in-law turned me on to Georgette Heyer, and I enjoy her a lot. I wouldn't seek out Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels' romances either, but I enjoy them more than I do a lot of the mysteries (my favorite genre) I read. I tend to avoid the genre in general, though, because I was scarred by a summer I spent in a small town where a good percentage of the fiction in the town library was by Barbara Cartland.

I think maybe you're just less likely to happen on an author you enjoy in a genre you avoid.

#90 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:53 PM:

Tina - yeah, that's what I meant...and fyi, the Inspirational Romance includes no sex until after marriage and it's only hinted at, not fully described. They are supposed to be stories in which the hero and heroine are forced to examine their faith. Most publishers of this sub-genre specify 'Christian' in their guidelines, but some do not. I haven't found one yet that isn't. Writing a Buddhist main character puts you in a sub-genre category they call Paranormal (I think one of my banishments had to do with simply saying I don't think there's anything paranormal about having a non-mainstream religion). Many Romance writers think that Paranormal and Fantasy are quite similar. I'd disagree. The reader expectations are different.

Jonathan - Your numbers may be a bit out of date, or I'm working off a different RWA report - either way, I'm not putting down Romance as a genre, but I do wish there were a few more written above 5th grade language level and with elements that might scare 70% of readers but appeal to feminists, say. Of course, those kinds of manuscripts aren't often published because it's not a smart move on the part of the publishers, except small ones with little budget for distribution or advertising. I'm not trying for literary, I'm trying to learn to write a few sentences that make sense, at this point. But while among the romance writers, I've discovered they don't think of romance as Romance. Romance as taught in school is not the same as Romance to the writers/readers of the genre, though this is a generalization. I've learned a lot from romance writers. Some produce like mad for their publishers and some think of every one of their books as a work of their heart. I have friends who've written over 100 books and had them published by real, not vanity, publishers. Their books are not my cup of tea, but the authors have taken the time to help me learn some basics while encouraging me to find what I love and then try to write in that genre. I'm deeply grateful to them and I respect their choice to work as they do. It's hard to categorize some writers (hence, Brite gets stuck in someone's head as a vamp writer) so I'm trying to think 'cross-genre'. It's why I invite people to come here in the summer. We put on a summer camp for the genre dysphoric.


#91 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:56 PM:

"Baby. Or ecstacy. There's a choice. Childfree." seems to me substantially more than a simple wish to be childfree. "I've chosen not to have children, and so far it's worked for me, and I expect it to keep doing so" is a statement of personal preference that gives no insult toward others' choices. So, for that matter, does "I just don't do well around children, and prefer not to be around them."

It's also possible to be a lot more vigorous and still not insult anyone else. "I prefer to live my life as far removed from sundry sordid aspects of life as possible, and the practicalities of tending children make me feel like I've fallen into a Racine novel."

And it's possible to speak of one's own circumstances in ways that do not imply being an uber-person. "I'm squeamish", for instance - which is part of my own explanation about why I pass on some kinds of food that I realize intellectually are perfectly safe and no weirder than things I do eat, but which still gross me out. "At this point, I'm simply only interested in adult activities." Whatever.

It is almost never necessary to be offensive or rude in laying out personal preferences for the organization of one's life, including choice of social companions.

#92 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:40 PM:

Karen (Junker): I haven't been kicked out by the Mormons yet, but I expect we shall soon have a parting of ways. (I can't wait, but I think my Mother can, and it's largely for her sake that I remain attached like a barnacle.)

T: Usage of snarky - I use snarky a lot in personal conversation, but in this case, I think I do remember somebody else (not Poppy) first using it, and therefore it was tops on my word list when I was hammering out my reply. Interesting, yes, to note how certain words just latch on. (Today, I had the word "seedy" migrate around in a real life conversation in much the same way.)

#93 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:50 PM:

PZB writes: "I am childless and planning to stay that way, but my lack of desire to have kids is not a defining factor of my life or something I feel the need to have validated by an Internet community....

I did experience a certain bitterness toward "breeders" in my early thirties, when it seemed to me that the entire world was geared toward celebration of heterosexual people and their babies.

I don't recall a moment when I made a conscious decision not to have children. It just seems I looked around at my life and, well, the decision had already been made.

I do occasionally feel excluded from mainstream American society, which is, as PZB says, apparently geared toward celebration of, and accommodation for, heterosexual people with children (and, in a small but growing way, married couples with children who are homosexual but otherwise live conventional, middle-American lifestyle -- I mean, little Billy in kindergarten makes TWO cards out of construction paper, Elmer's Glue and crayons for Father's Day and sits out the card-making on Mother's Day, but, really, that doesn't make him very different from his classmates).

However, I'm still white, American, middle class and male so I figure the game is rigged in my favor even if I am childless. Um, "child-free."

My brother and sister-in-law have a boy and twin girls, all three of them under 2.5 years old. They have a full-time live-in nanny. When I visit them, they are not sitting around eating bon-bons and commenting how wonderful it is to be living in a society that is structured entirely around them -- no, they're hard at work every waking moment, running around, picking this one up, feeding the other one, changing diapers, keeping this one from hitting that one.

Talk to a self-described child-free person and you'd think they are making some kind of sacrifice which society fails to appreciate. In fact, one of the reasons I chose to be without children is that I just didn't want the hassle.

Tina: She got warned for being "off-topic", when nothing in the LJ userinfo suggests that what she talked about was off-topic, to wit:

Back in the glory days of GEnie-that-was, we had individual discussion forums (called "topics") devoted to individual authors -- that's where I "met" Teresa and Patrick, on their topic.

I was occasionally a moderator for GEnie, involved in setting the rules for what is on- or off-topic, and our rules for the author topics was that everything the author says in their topic is automatically deemed to be on-topic. How can it be otherwise, was our rationale.

Arthur D. Hlavaty: "30 years ago, it was desperately important to me to identify myself as "childfree" and know I was not alone because normal society was telling me I either didn't exist or was evil. It was like being gay, though of course nowhere near as scary."

I certainly don't feel that way now and I can't remember a time when I ever did. I have never felt that society was telling me I either didn't exist or am evil -- although I do occasionally feel the milder emotion of frustration about being somewhat marginalized by society.

Recently, my wife and I came to the decision that, if you don't have children, holidays just aren't an all-day thing. Christmas and Thanksgiving occupy a few hours of the day, and it's painful to try to stretch them to take up more.

I don't usually engage in trolling, but one bit of trolling I do enjoy is when I encounter someone who is against homosexual marriage because they believe marriage is for the purpose of having and raising children. I like to respond: "My wife and I decided not to have children when we married. We do not have children, we intend never to have children. Do you want to explain to me now why we're not really married?" So far, everyone I've challenged in that way has rapidly changed the subject. Alas.

Yonmei - I think you're overlooking a key element of the discussion. Poppy Z. Brite isn't an "average anti-slash fan who joins a slash fan community in order to tell the slash fans that she doesn't care for slash and she doesn't like communities that discuss it." She's Gene Roddenberry joining a fan community named "Star Trek." She gets to say things that other people don't get to say in the forum about her.

And yet I see no evidence that PZB said anything inappropriate at all. I'm baffled at the description of Poppy Z. Brite's posts as "snarky," hostile or immature -- they seem quite reasonable to me. Then again, like PZB, I am a writer who is a public figure (albeit in a smaller, more specialized and very diffferent community from the one Brite inhabits) and I am used to getting flamed. Most times I just shrug it off -- I know that on the Internert, saying "fuck you" is just some people's way of saying "good morning." But sometimes I respond.

Neil Gaiman - Your recommendation of Liquor is high praise indeed -- I just read "Kitchen Confidential" a few months ago and loved it, absolutely loved it. I still occasionally fantasize about chucking it all and becoming a chef, Bourdain makes it sound like such a wonderful life. Of course, I burned the toast I made for breakfast this morning, so perhaps this would not be the best career move for me.

Kat: Ah, well, I guess you'll just have to take it from me that Kwobt's actually a lovely person, and great fun to talk to!

I wouldn't be surprised if you're right -- one of my closest friends used to behave badly quite frequently in online discussion groups, and I was the first to say that he is not like that offline, not like that at all, he's really a wonderful person. But I also conceded that when he got online, he's, well, not so wonderful.

I know of a few people like that -- not many, it's somewhat rare -- people who are as sweet as can be offline but view the Internet as a place to vent their anger.

And, at risk of repeating myself: sometimes, because of my status as an extremely minor public figure, the angry Internet people vent that anger at me, and I don't really care for it. Mostly I just shrug it off, but sometimes I get pissed off in return and fire a volley back. I always regret it when I do -- not because I believe I have behaved badly, but rather because I believe I have wasted my time. Like a man once told me: Don't get in a pissing contest with a dog. You both get wet and the dog likes it.

a simple wish not to have to have children is considered fair game in an argument like this.

It's not the wish to have children that's being targetted here, but rather the making of a big deal about it, and the holding in contempt of children and the people who have them.

Because I took a psychology class in college, and have read several issues of "Psychology Today," that makes me a psychology expert, and therefore I am qualified to speculate that the child-free movement's contempt for breeders stems from a contempt for -- and hatred of -- the breeders the members know best: their own parents.

#94 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:56 PM:

That dig at Childfree was a little uncalled for, don't you think?

I don't think "ecstacy" in their default graphic is symbolic or metaphorical. I think it is literal, and they mean the choice literally. For a parent's experience with such people, see my piece My Drug Experience.

It may be that they mean ecstacy to be loosely synonomous with joy. But I doubt it. This is a drug culture thing.

So, no, I don't think I'm being too hard on them. I could care less whether they want to have kids or whether they like kids or parents. But I recognize from their iconography what social movement is really at issue.

#95 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 06:11 PM:

on the Internet, saying "fuck you" is just some people's way of saying "good morning."

Beautiful.

#96 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 06:32 PM:

Why I adore Julia:

"I get the impression that someone who refers to my child as 'crotchfruit' is a little more interested in my reproductive decisions than I am in theirs, and more than a little more interested in arguing about it."
Pow.

#97 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 07:11 PM:

I know of a few people like that -- not many, it's somewhat rare -- people who are as sweet as can be offline but view the Internet as a place to vent their anger.

But my experience of the people like that of my acquaintance is that the anger will eventually come out in person. It's part of who they are; right now they are only expressing that part in one venue, but there can be spill-over. And I find that kind of interaction even more objectionable in person than in text. I've chosen to end a couple of friendships because of it, and I am reluctant to enter a friendship with someone whose on-line persona varies greatly from their face-to-face one, whether for good or bad, setting aside that some people communicate better in text than in speech.

#98 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 07:19 PM:

It is almost never necessary to be offensive or rude in laying out personal preferences for the organization of one's life, including choice of social companions.

As one who has been told repeatedly, both overtly and covertly, that I am not a real adult, that I am not part of a real family, that I'm immature, etc. ad nauseam, because I have chosen not to have children I find it hard to be polite sometimes. Ideally, of course, I'd only be rude in return to the people being rude to me. In practice, well. When people have been subjected to this sort of rudeness reapeatedly, it can be hard to always maintain one's balance.

That said, I actually like children and feel no desire to call them or their parents by derogatory names. I can certainly see though how people who are barraged by "children good" and "not having children bad" messages might be rude, crude and socially unacceptable among themselves. I deplore it, but I can understand it.

MKK

#99 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 07:25 PM:

But there's the thing, Kris, things I say in person that are perfectly funny remarks come off (sometimes, not often) in on-line communication as insulting. It's not a problem I have in written communication generally--it seems specific to on-line communication. Or maybe it's just that, on the occasions when I say something awful in person, the look on my face as I say "I'm sorry" is sincere.

#100 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:05 PM:

Well, adamsj, I don't know you. At least, I don't think I know you. And the specific experiences I've had involved people being really intentionally abusive and obnoxious, not just having a funny remark fail to get across. Real trash talk, extreme personal abuse (not directed at me, mind), from people I had previously found pleasant companions face-to-face, and who eventually exhibited those same nasty behaviors in person.

#101 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:46 PM:

Kris, now I understand and agree. I've had similar enough experiences to wish I hadn't.

#102 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 08:50 PM:

I have to say that Poppy Z. Brite is an extraordinarily talented writer whose works I probably would never have read were it not for... well, a bit of her personal history that isn't relevant to this discussion. I am not a horror fan -- no, let me restate that. I am a horror anti-fan, someone who will normally go to considerable lengths to avoid even good horror, not because I think the genre is bad, but because I hate experiencing stories that make me watch inexorable disaster coming, and the genre uses that trope far too often. (Hmm, I just realized that I dislike horror for very nearly the same reasons that I dislike television sitcoms. How 'bout that!)

Anyway. Having once been motivated to read her, I was impressed by her psychological subtlety and mastery of narrative structure, while being disturbed by a certain obsessive tone that I knew darn well was deliberately calculated to be disturbing, but still...

Put it this way: in writing, she is capable of putting on or tossing aside the semblance of sanity like a cloak. Some of her characters and themes are not even a little bit sane. This is because she is a very, very good writer, and a brave one, too. Amongst her fans may be numbered a few who found resonances in, um, all the wrong places. I imagine this must be worrisome for her at times.

#103 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:00 PM:

Hmm, I just realized that I dislike horror for very nearly the same reasons that I dislike television sitcoms. How ‘bout that!

Hey! That explains a lot! Me, too, Sylvia — thanks for pinning that one down.

#104 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:25 PM:

I need some etiquette advice, because there's something I want to say that always seems to end up coming out other than I intended.

Mary, I don't know you, but I certainly consider Mitch a net acquaintance and have a great deal of confidence in his honesty and attentiveness. I have no reason to doubt you, either, and don't in any sense at all want to suggest that I do.

But...

I'm a fairly typical-looking white guy in his late '30s. I don't look nearly as disabled as I am. I have never, so nearly as I can recall, ever felt pressured or marginalized about my lack of kids, even when I've been in serious long-term relationships and working in relatively typical offices.

I am boggled at the variance of in people's experiences on this matter, and that reaction comes up often enough that I wish I had some convenient way of noting it with minimal risk of offense. I believe my friends who say that they've had this kind of pressure, and I believe my friends who say that they haven't. (I also believe my friends with children who've had a lot of hassles and definitely been marginalized for having kids - it's bad in a lot of fannish circles, and also in some tech fields.)

I'd love to know more about why this variation arises.

#105 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:40 PM:

What's the fuss about?

It's good for a chuckle: A writer gets barred from an online discussion group that looks at first glance to be about her writing.

The Internet is a very big place, and you'll see just about anything happening, if you wait long enough. I'm shocked 96 shocked! 96 to discover that some of the people who run online communities are wankers.

IMHO, life is to short to spend very much of it in a state of agitation over wankers on the Internet being wankers.

#106 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 10:53 PM:

Bruce: I have never, so nearly as I can recall, ever felt pressured or marginalized about my lack of kids, even when I've been in serious long-term relationships and working in relatively typical offices.

Could it be because you, like Mitch, are male? The belief that women are supposed to universally desire children may be one of the last, strongest holdouts of the double standard.

#107 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 11:01 PM:

I waited till I was thirty to get married, and till my mid-thirties to have children. Like some unenchilded people here, I occasionally felt pressure or implicit criticism from some, for not choosing the traditional heterosexual marry-young-and-breed route.

It's undoubtedly a good thing for the species that many people do decide to have children (and I have several friends who if they chose to, would make great parents). But it's equally true that there are plenty of us humans around, and there should be no social burden imposed on those who choose not to reproduce.

But even so, when I saw that "childfree = ecstasy" link above, I giggled and had to resist saying something very very naughty about the unintended message there. Even if there's not a drug innuendo, the underlying narcissism is apparent.

Imo, anyway.


-l.

#108 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:23 AM:

Nearly every woman I know, with the exception of the ones who actually have kids, has heard the "when are you going to have children?" question, though few of the guys have, so it does seem to be pretty solidly set along gender lines.

I don't like the assumption implicit in that, nor the fact that even after twenty years of saying I don't want kids, I still hear "You'll change your mind" from people. No, no I won't. I don't have the patience to raise kids. I like them in small doses, but I like being able to return them to their parents when my patience wears out. (Reasonably behaved kids are actually fun to be around sometimes, but the key word there for me is "sometimes".)

I have a lot of respect for people who do choose to become (good) parents; it's a hard job. But better them than me.

#109 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:43 AM:

Yeah, there's certainly a big gender gap involved. But some of the guys I know have gotten a fair amount of "when kids?" pressure, and some haven't. There's a bit of mystery at work there. I'm not deeply worried about it, but I'd like to know, just because I like to know, why it happens.

#110 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:20 AM:

Kris Hasson-Jones - My friend did experience "spillover" in his online persona and his offline persona -- fortunately, it was his online persona that mellowed. And I don't think he's participating in many online discussion groups anymore either.

Tina - I have heared the question "when are you going to have children?" and also been told "you'll change your mind." It's just that nobody I ever cared about has ever said that to me. I get it from the occasional liver-spotted ancient great-aunt or great-uncle at family weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. It comes right after, "You don't remember me, do you? I was at your Bar Mitzvah."

My response to "you'll change your mind" is to shrug and say, "Could be." I mean, how old was Tony Randall when he had a baby?

This is not to doubt the severity of any pressure that you and Mary Kay Kare might be feeling.

#111 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:30 AM:

I just want to emphasize here, before I log off for the night, that I'm not trying to invalidate anybody else's experience of having been denounced and hassled because they don't have children.

Like I said, I occasionally am hassled by great-aunts and great-uncles at family functions, but they are very nearly strangers to me, so I don't pay any attention to them. Maybe it's a New York Jewish extended-family thing -- as great-aunts and great-uncles, they feel they have a right to criticize my lifestyle, and respect requires that I appear to listen, but that's all I do. I don't care what they think.

I can see if my parents had made a stink about it about my not giving them grandchildren, that might have been painful -- but they didn't.

#112 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:59 AM:

Mitch:

Poppy Z. Brite isn't an "average anti-slash fan who joins a slash fan community in order to tell the slash fans that she doesn't care for slash and she doesn't like communities that discuss it." She's Gene Roddenberry joining a fan community named "Star Trek."

If Gene Roddenbury joined a fan community named "Star Trek" and made snarky remarks about the community in his very first post (yes, I know you didn't interpret PZB's comments as snarky) I think he would find that being the Great Bird of the Galaxy got him only so far.

She gets to say things that other people don't get to say in the forum about her.

Actually, anyone who joins a forum which is about them gets to say things that other people don't get to say. Not just D-list celebs. But a writer doesn't necessarily have the same right when joining a forum about their writing. A writer is not identical with their writing.

#113 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 04:15 AM:

Well let's see.

My sister has inherited almost all the toys we had as kids that survived, including some I had a real attachment to. Because she has kids.

I heard my mother say to my sister once, "I'm saving that for your sister when she has a home." At the time I was divorced and in graduate school. Still, I was not living in a tent; I had a home. But I didn't have husband and children, so it was 'real'.

We spend every single Christmas every year at my sister's house. Because she has children. I'd love to host my family for Christmas, but I never will.

Since I'm 51 nobody asks any longer when I'm going to have kids, but they did, oh yes. (My maternal grandmother told my mother she had ruined us by allowing us to go off and get educated.)

Then there are the magazines and papers and such-like. Do you read women's magazines? Or family oriented publications? All of them assume family=children. I gues I, my husband, and our 2 cats are just a bunch of non-related beings sharing a house. No family here, nope. Not to mention countless articles (though I see fewer of these nowadays) about how childless by choice couples are selfish, immature, etc.

Oh, and don't forget all those glowing reports of parenthood where the proud and happy folks maintain they never really became adults (or a man or a woman) until they had children. So what does that make me?

I'm finding it harder and harder these days to find stuff in the grocery store which is packed for 1 or 2 people. For example, there used to be a really good pasta sauce in a jar that came in pint and quart sizes. It's only available in quart sizes now and that's too much for me to eat before it goes bad.

"You can't possibly understand -- you don't have children." Oh, really? I have no imagination, no emapthy, no observational powers? Huh.

If I go on any longer I'm gonna get pissed off.

MKK

#114 ::: Diane ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:16 AM:

What Mary Kay said, although from the sounds of it she92s subjected to more family pressure than I am, her experience pretty much mirrors my own. I can remember one friend recently expressing complete and utter shock that, now that I92m in a relationship, I haven92t changed my mind about having children. As if, all along, I was just being coy and waiting for the right man to come along. I found this particularly ironic given that the person articulating this opinion has two children of her own that she92s pretty much abandoned.

#115 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:03 AM:

I didn't get pressure, exactly--nothing heavy--but my cousins would ask me at family reunionsm. I brought that on myself, the year I brought a fiancee to Thanksgiving.

My parents, much as they wanted grandchildren (I'm an only child, adopted when they were 38 and 40), never pressed me. I was 45 minus four days when Quincy was born--I regret the lateness for them.

Not for me, though--I'm only patient enough for a baby now that I'm grown up.

#116 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:41 AM:

For many years, I assumed a majority of my adult friends had made choices rather like Mary Kay's and Arthur's.

Indeed, people do pressure for children. The degree of pressure depends on your family and social situation. But that pressure is part of a larger complex of social pressures which are often quite contradictory. Don't get pregnant while you're in high school or college, but have your kids early while you have a low risk of Down's Syndrome. (Or alternatively, forget your education and have kids already!) Have kids, but don't quit your job, but don't send them to day care either. etc. Or you had too many or too few, or they were the wrong gender or not smart enough or pretty enough. There is no comfortable position in this social maze.

Once I was pregnant, I discovered that many of the people I'd assumed had chosen not to have children for one reason or another couldn't, the usual reason being that the women had assumed they could get pregnant when they were ready, but when they were ready, they couldn't get pregnant. I feel a little bit of survivor guilt that I waited until I was ready, and then it was easy.

In the maze of pressures, one figure under the most pressure is the pregnant woman. Many things can influence the health of the fetus: air quality, water quality, food additives, the mother's toxic exposure over the course of her life, but what society chooses to focus on is the behavior of the mother. And if the mother is extremely careful during pregnancy, the prospects of the baby are improved.

But if that is our goal, a lot else should be changed: lead in the drinking water, hormones in milk, the selection of pesticides legal to use on produce, mercury emissions that end up in the fish on your plate, etc. But it's so easy to put pressure on the mother instead, and perhaps even blame her if something goes wrong.

Backing up a step, I suspect it's a whole lot easier for a family or society to put pressure on a woman to have kids than to work on changing the reasons why this might seem like an undesirable option.

#117 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:25 AM:

I've never had the "when kids" pressure. In fact, my parents have been more likely to say things like "no marriage until you get your degree" and "no kids until you're ready, if ever". That's the pressure I grew up with, and that's what I've seen outside of my family too. In fact, I once ripped into a fellow student because she wanted nothing more than to be a housewife (I did this at a dinner with our dates before a Homecoming dance my junior year of high school; I regret to say it took me at least two years to realize what an ass I was to her).

The only societal pressure, meme, what have you that I've felt all my life and still feel is the "you're too young to understand/know better/have really experienced life" absurdity. One thing I've realized in the past month or so, though, is that I can often be so sensitive to this element that I'll find it where it's not, or help enable it with an attitude of "but don't listen to me, I'm only 25". That doesn't negate the pressure, of course, or make it warranted. But it does make me aware of what I can and can't control in this issue.

Mary Kay wrote: "I'm finding it harder and harder these days to find stuff in the grocery store which is packed for 1 or 2 people."

My husband and I love this. It means we always get two meals for the price of one. We haven't found anything that doesn't freeze well yet.

As for Poppy's comments, I did find the "parading one's differences" to be heading toward an insult, if not there already - even when read as a separate "post" from the childfree questions. It's got a "you silly youngun, you'll see the Light soon and realize how normal this is" tone that I hear a lot when older folks talk to younger folks. But, then again, I do have the sensitivity I mentioned above. And, at any rate, the response to Poppy's comments is way over the top.

#118 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:53 AM:

Like Mary Kay and others, I received a bit of family pressure when I was single and childless, primarily to marry and then procreate, but there was always a bit more of an edge to the "don't you want to have kids" question than to the marriage question. I think my family recognized that marriage was not a motivating force for me, but children are and have been a matter of much discussion and expectation in our family. We, collectively, are very involved with the idea of continuing the family, increasing the # of generations, etc. (though not increasing the # of people--since my grandparents' generation, no one in my immediate family has had more that 2 kids, except for my maternal grandparents' oops child, who is only 6 years older than me).

But as a single, childless person, I was definitely second class within the family. While I have no desire to host major family gatherings, and love that I can simply go to someone else's home for holidays and not have to work my butt off at my place, for many years I was not asked to contribute anything to the holiday events, not to the meals, the decor, whatever. And there were woman-to-woman conversation from which I was excluded, not in any nasty way, but there was an assumption that I couldn't give advice on certain issues because I had no experience.

I lived in limbo for a lot of years--an adult, but not really recognized as one despite full-time employment and owning my own home. It was a weird place, not enraging, just strange.

Much of this changed when I became pregnant and has continued to change over the ensuing years. Once the family got over the initial shock of my procreating without a partner, they were delighted with the procreation part.

The year after my daughter was born I was invited to my first "women's" lunch, which included all the other adult women in the family in this geographical area except my two then-unmarried female cousins. I'm now asked to contribute to family meals and what I say is taken somewhat more seriously. It's as if _now_ I'm a grown-up. Still a weird, not-quite-like-everyone-else person, but definitely an adult.

My brother married a few years ago, and family members often ask him and his wife when they are going to have children. After all, the implication is, you're not so young anymore. "And you both like children," someone inevitably says, which is true, but doesn't necessarily mean they want to raise some of their own.

After my father died, last year, I remember someone saying it was too bad he'd only had one grandchild--which was not a dig at me, no one expects me to spawn again--but was at my brother, who was having a tough enough time with our father's death. And now that my bro and SIL have bought a new house, family members are publicly and privately speculating on what will be done with the "extra" bedroom--a guest room? a nursery?

My mother often asks me if my brother has said anything to me about their plans for children, but I wouldn't tell her if he had, and he hasn't, and it's not really my business anyway. But I think that it's harder on my brother and his wife than it ever was on me. After all, I was single, and that created a buffer space, for most people.

#119 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:05 PM:

Mea culpa.

I am the eldest of 5 children, and most reflect a delegated/vicarious pseudoparental authority. [anagrams: PARENTAL, PRENATAL, PATERNAL].

I was perturbed when my little sister, the youngest of the 5, had an abortion. But, then, I didn't like the boyfriend either. I was elated when she got married, the last of the 5 to do so.

When my brother, #2 in the list, was married, I was perturbed that the bride insisted that she never wanted to have children.

But then my sister-in-law surprised me with something wonderful. She and my brother adopted a orphan baby from Brazil.

I never had direct pressure to have children, but I suspect that men in America get far less such pressure than women.

Once I did have a son, in my late 30s, my extended family was evidently pleased.

So, from personal observation, I have a nuanced compromise position on the child-free position.

It can be good to delay becoming a parent, for reasons of personal freedom and career focus. It can be good to announce that you never intend to have children, for those reasons plus asserting independence over family/peer assumptions. It can be good to change your mind. It is usually possible to adopt if there is a genetic or childbirth-angst reason not to bear your own young. It can be good to have N children and then be surgically blocked from N+1. There is a wide spectrum of options, and it is the woman's choice, so far as I can see.

But, regardless, it is cruel to criticize someone for their choice in this exceedingly important matter of freedom and responsibility.

There are at least as many good reasons not to have children as there are good reasons to, for instance, be vegetarian. Or to read science fiction. Arent we supposed to be open to hearing differing opinions on the paths to utopia?

#120 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:27 PM:

The year after my daughter was born I was invited to my first "women's" lunch, which included all the other adult women in the family in this geographical area except my two then-unmarried female cousins. I'm now asked to contribute to family meals and what I say is taken somewhat more seriously. It's as if _now_ I'm a grown-up. Still a weird, not-quite-like-everyone-else person, but definitely an adult.

You're a much nicer person than I am Melissa. This would have enraged me. Why should I have to have a child to be treated as an adult? Ironically, I have probably given way more thought to the question of whether or not to reproduce than any of the people I grew up with gave to having children. I mean, it's just what you do, right?

You know, when I told my mother I had decided not to have children her reaction was, "I must not have been a good mother." Because obviously there was something wrong with me and as my mother it was her fault.

Arrrgh. I'm getting bent. I may have to drop this thread

MKK

#121 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:27 PM:

Tried to post this earlier, but our DSL is flaky today.

I don't interpret large-sized food items as deliberately dismissive of smaller families, Mary Kay, but as dismissive of smaller portions. I know individuals who polish off a quart jar of pasta sauce in three sittings, tops. Supersizing, supersizing.

I got married two weeks after my 21st birthday and, four and a half years later, do not yet have kids. Some people recoil with shock and horror at the first part, others at the second. Both are the source of large numbers of unwelcome assumptions. There are three adults in my household. More recoiling. More assumptions. And I'm sure it's easier to say this now than it would have been 25 or 50 years ago, but these people's opinions are not my problem.

If we get ourselves some kids later, there will be people who think we waited too long, people who think we didn't wait long enough, people who think we have too many, people who think we have too few, people who think we give them too many material goods and people who think we deprive them, people who think they have too many adults in their lives and people who think they are too unsupervised. The world is filled with busybodies.

There is always someone out there for whom I am too traditional, someone for whom I'm too modern or alternative, someone for whom I'm too mainstream or not mainstream enough. Everyone I know encounters such people. There is nothing I can do to avoid these people entirely. The most I can do is try not to let them get in my face and encourage them not to behave that way to others -- whatever flavor of others.

#122 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:20 PM:

I was married at 21, the fall after I graduated from university (which shocks my daughter now, so young! but it was pretty much normal amongst my peers). I had had a very sheltered upbringing, and was vague by temperament anyway; I knew full well I was not yet mature enough to be a parent. I expected that I would probably have kids one day, but not yet, no way. Not ready. I wasn't all the way grown up. I had no business bringing a new human being into the world.

Five years later, something clicked in my brain, and I knew, no argument, that I was ready NOW. I think this may be a fairly common experience, and the people who say 'You will change your mind,' are mostly doing no worse than backing the odds while indulging in a regrettable but very human impulse to seem prescient.

Also: that 'if you don't have kids you're not an adult' must surely be annoying, but it's talking about what was a very real experience to me. Once I found myself facing all the same problems I remembered my parents dealing with, it really brought home that I had moved up a generation. I couldn't fool myself. I had made a one-way transition. I was Not A Kid Anymore.

Being in charge of that first child really does hit you over the head with the concept. Bang. Someone tiny and helpless and very very important needs you to make the right choices.

Now, I'm sure there are many people who become fully responsible adults long before the question of children even comes up, but I wasn't one of them. For me the two events were linked.

#123 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 02:26 PM:

Gads. Mary Kay and all, that sounds awful. :(

It seems to me that there's real room for someone articulate and thoughtful to lay out a general philosophy of life under pluralism. If we're serious about diversity as a social good - and I think most of us are - then we also have to live with the fact of routinely encountering people making choices we regard as unwise or even worse. Expecting everyone to never comment with disapproval is ludicrous, and deeply unhealthy, since discourse is crucial to learning. But having to be braced for random bystanders - and, worse, family and friends you'd otherwise like not to ditch - to dump at any time is also ludicrous, for the biochemical toll from stress alone.

It seems like there ought to be a balance in between those, a consistent set of guidelines that would actually work for the vast majority of circumstances. But I don't see it.

#124 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Re "you will change your mind" - I think we childless should say that to people who've decided they DO want children. Much more accurate than they are: a few years ago, a survey discovered that 70% of adults with children say they wouldn't have children if they had it to do over.

So the belief that having children will increase ones happiness is both delusional and absolutely critical to the survival of our species. If 30% of the people who have kids now still had them, that'd be well below replacement value! (Yes, I know that everything would change if the species were really in danger of dying out, and that several hundred years of declining-by-attrition population would be a Good Thing for the planet, though not for the economy or the actual people. I'm being silly.)

Mary Kay, that thing about "if you make that choice I must have been a bad parent" thing sounds familiar. Can't quite place it...

Out of my whole generation of our family (five surviving sibs) only ONE has had children. And she's...well, let's just say she'll insist a glass is half full even if it's so empty that it could suck down three gallons of water without even feeling damp.

#125 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 03:51 PM:

Sylvia, I know someone who became an adult - far too young - because his mother was passed out drunk every single day for many years. It worked for him, but left him with other emotional scars. If he went around saying "you're not an adult until you've dealt with a passed-out drunk every day for years" people would rightly call him crazy.

I realize you're only talking about your own experience, and that we're on the same side as far as the pernicious meme. It just brought up that whole thing for me...

I'd suggest as a response (to "you're not an adult until you have kids") saying "Actually, some of us didn't need to be hit on the head to become responsible." Or, if they're really getting nasty about it: "Obviously it didn't even work in your case."

And sometimes it doesn't. Having kids will not turn a 15-year-old into an adult. Nothing will except time.

#126 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 05:17 PM:

"Obviously it didn't even work in your case."

(grin) Well, sometimes I still wonder if it really worked after all in my case, but since I just had my 60th birthday... if it didn't, I think I've left it too late.

Seriously, though. There are moments of transition throughout life. Having my first child was a biggie for me, but it was by no means the only one. When I was 14, in the throes of adolescent self-absorption (and dealing with a traumatic family death), I can remember staring intensely out a window and vowing to myself that I had to become more mature. Comical in retrospect, but it mattered immensely to me then.

When I was 19, I went for a long walk one cold spring day and decided that from that time forward I would no longer blame my innumerable character faults and lack of self-esteem on the way my parents had treated me. It might be a reason, but it was no longer an excuse. (Hey, and they were good parents. Well, mostly good. I now think they did way better than I'd have done in the circumstances, but there'd been a lot of hurt ricocheting around. I call that one my Moment of Getting Over Being A Teenager.)

The best, most angst-free, most purely delightful life transition I've had, so far, was becoming a grandma. I did not, I swear, exert pressure. I didn't so much as ask once when or whether my daughter was planning to have children. I knew it was entirely a decision between her and her husband. But there's no denying that I enjoy the company of my little grandson immensely. So I can see where some people who don't possess my own admirable self-restraint might push the issue more than they should.

#127 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 06:01 PM:

Mary Kay and Melissa: Although I am younger, I too can relate to some of the things you have related about your experiences. Of course, I come from the state of Utah where you are on the shelf at 23 or so, and since I am not married, my viability as a human being to many distant relations hinges first upon my getting married, AND then producing offspring. Which I plan on doing for my own reasons in my own time--but in the mean time, I often feel like putting my feet down and screaming out manifestos about childbearing. (I recently learned that Ibizan hounds are encouraged to whelp only every few years and not any sooner, which is more than I can say for Mormon women. Particularly if you translate doggie years into people years. If it's not good to throw a litter so often, why must people act as though you've committed some crime against humanity by waiting until you are healthy and ready?)

I also had an experience where I was banned from an adults-only function on the basis of not being married.

#128 ::: Jennifer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 06:40 PM:

To whoever it was waaaay up there that asked what kinds of people are likely to be nagged about having children:

(a) those who live in, shall we say, more traditional areas of the country
(b) those with relatives from more traditional areas of the country
(c) women, from puberty till menopause
(d) sons who have to pass down the family name
(e) people with parents who desperately want grandchildren

Does that clear it up?

It's varied for me- my parents "naturally assume" someday I'll change my mind, and my mother asks about my future fertility from time to time, but she does have at least some clue that she may not get grandchildren, and regardless of her feelings doesn't really nag about this. Then again, I'm still unmarried and she doesn't approve of my SO anyway. I imagine that if either of those statuses changed, it might be another story. Meanwhile, my idiot aunt and uncle from Montana spent Christmas hinting to me that I should get knocked up by the first drunken frat boy I see because I'm 25 and it's high time I started breeding already, and I should have gotten knocked up at 18 like half the family.

On a daily basis, the source I feel the most pressure from is at one of my online communities, where there's plenty of mothers and someone's getting knocked up every six months, and baby talk goes on about 3-4 times a day. Not that they nag me to have one, mind you, but I feel like I'm from another planet because I'm the only woman there who isn't dying to hold her very own baby in her arms now/soon/someday. That "other planet" feeling is why childfree communities appeal to me, even though I don't hate children.

#129 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 07:44 PM:

Sylvia Li - Seriously, though. There are moments of transition throughout life. Having my first child was a biggie for me, but it was by no means the only one. When I was 14, in the throes of adolescent self-absorption (and dealing with a traumatic family death), I can remember staring intensely out a window and vowing to myself that I had to become more mature. Comical in retrospect, but it mattered immensely to me then.

I went through something similar when I went through a traumatic family illness and death. That was four or five years ago; I was 37.

Oh, the way you describe it, you make yourself sound all melodramatic and adolescent, whereas I was an adult -- but, still, I remember thinking that I needed to get wiser and smarter pretty fast.

I remember a prayer that Debra Doyle taught me for that experience: "Thank you, God. My character is all built up now. You can stop."

#130 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:22 PM:

Or, to put it another way, when the 14-year-old stares out the window and vows to become more mature after a family death, she's simply praying for wisdom and strength to get through a crisis. There's nothing childish about that.

#131 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:32 PM:

Tina and Karen Junker:

On that sub-thread about Romance and Science Fiction:

Sapphire Nominations Announced
[9 Jan 2004]

Science Fiction Romance has announced the nominees for the 2003 Sapphire Awards, presented for best science fiction romance novels and stories. This year received more nominations than any previous year. The winners should be announced in the April newsletter of SFR.

Novel Length Fiction:

Dance With The Devil, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Heart Thief, by Robin D. Owens
Skyfall, by Catherine Asaro
The Star Princess, by Susan Grant
Tinker, by Wen Spencer

Short Fiction:

"Dark Descent", by Christine Feehan
"Moonglow", by Catherine Asaro
"Phantom Lover", by Sherrilyn Kenyon
"The Star Queen", by Susan Grant
"Thief of Dreams", by Sheri L. McGathy

Has anyone here read and want so say anything about any of these authors and/or their works?

#132 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:59 PM:

I understand some people not wanting children. I'll admit right now that I don't understand the bitterness and the violently contemptuous language of some child-free types. I went looking to understand this better and wound up getting grossed out by this site.

I was raised Mormon, one of a family of seven. My mother has 75 first cousins. I can't remember how many first cousins Granny had, but it was in the three digits. And no, none of them were polygamists. It was absolutely assumed that I would marry and have children when I grew up, and for some years after I married Patrick I got asked about it pretty frequently.

Some people are religious. Some go to college. Some work out five times a week. Some have elaborately decorated houses where the towels match. Some do a lot of political work. Some invariably take a formal vacation twice a year. Some believe it's important to wear the latest fashions. Some write weblogs. Some obsess about their social standing in their community. And some people have children.

Others don't.

I just don't understand the hostility. I've taken more flak for not dressing like a proper girl than I've ever taken for not having children, but I don't get together with other fashion-averse types while we stoke our communal fury over the existence of haute couture and Vogue.

Can somebody explain this?

#133 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:01 PM:

Jonathon, I wasn't trying to be snarky, I was startled. I don't by any means think poorly of romance, I just don't follow that field and I had no idea at all that there were inspirational romance novels. I will follow your links and read about them, (but I haven't yet) I still can't imagine what that would mean. What might inspirational science fiction mean? I am boggled.

I think I might have to start using that guy's colored text or wierd fonts to communicate tone in my posts. I appear to be unusually bad at it.

#134 ::: Racchael ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:27 PM:

That said, I don't think I put my foot in my mouth, thank you very much. (Tone = very slight asperity.)

#135 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:29 PM:

Although perhaps I put my foot on my keyboard, since I don't seem to be able to type my own name. Must be bed time.

#136 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:34 PM:

We have it on the very best authority that the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight.

Sleep well.

#137 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:53 PM:

I've read Catherine Asaro--she's not bad. Think of her as the anti-Susan R. Matthews.

#138 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:10 PM:

I went looking to understand this better and wound up getting grossed out by this site.

I thought "crotchfruit" was tacky. "Salivating fleshloaves"??

They're just babies.

#139 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:21 PM:

Rachael: I apologize, You were neither snarky nor foot-in-mouth. Email and blogging does run the risk of missing emotional nuance for those who listen for tone-of-voice. On the other claw, telephone misses nucance for those who watch for body language.

As to: "What might inspirational science fiction mean?", I suggested at this anchor

http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/thisthat.html#theo

as follows

THEOLOGY:
Science Fiction or Fantasy about Religion

Traditionally, very little Science Fiction dealt with Religion, while a major segment of Fantasy and Horror was predicated on Religious beliefs.

To oversimplify, Science Fiction is Materialist in essence, about a science/engineering/ technology universe in which there is very little room for God. Fantasy and Horror, on the other hand, often depend upon an explicit border between Natural and Supernatural, and on the distinctions between Good and Evil, and are therefore essentially about God or His
absence.

H. P. Lovecraft pointed out in "Notes on Interplanetary Fiction" that religion was a local Earth custom, like Royalty, which had no significance whatsoever in other parts of the astronomical universe. James Blish strove, in fiction and critical essays, to establish exactly the opposite point of view. His masterpieces of Theological Science Fiction are:
the "After Such Knowledge" series:
* Doctor Miribilis [Dodd Mead, 1971]
* Black Easter [Doubleday, 1968; Dell; Avon]
* The Day After Judgment [Doubleday, 1971]
* A Case of Conscience [Ballentine Books, 1958; Walker, 1969]

As Darrell Schweitzer says in "God and All That" [Aboriginal Science Fiction, Summer 1998]: "Sure, there had always been stories about brave explorers landing on Mars and finding a humanoid culture there which is sort of like African/Aztec/Samoan culture only less interesting, where the priest-ridden natives are bent on sacrificing the pith-helmeted -- er, I mean space-suited -- strangers to the Great Ghod Ghu. But let's get real. Serious SF about religion began to slip through the pages of 'Astounding' circa 1940..."

We can make a preliminary categorization of Religious subgenre fiction as follows:

Afterlife
Angels
Apocalypse
Aztec
Celtic
Christian
Demon
Devil
Egyptian Pantheon
Elder Gods
God
Goddess
Greek/Roman Pantheon
Haiti and Voodoo
Heaven
Hell
Hindu Pantheon
Islamic
Jewish/Hebrew
Limbo
Mayan
Messiah Figures
Native American
Oriental Fantasy
Original (to this fiction) Pantheon
Pseudo-Religions
Purgatory
Scandanavian Pantheon
those miscellaneous others

And then I went into varying amounts of detail.

#140 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 05:55 AM:

Jonathan - Susan Grant is a charming woman. She's a pilot who writes paranormal romance. Her books have received several awards. I'd give you more of a review, but my memory is terrible. I still never remember who wins at the end of Star Wars. I love your lists, btw.

TNH- If you haven't yet spent long, flannel-clad nights dissing the readers and the very existence of Vogue, you have clearly not spent enough time living in certain communes.

#141 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 06:14 AM:

all those glowing reports of parenthood where the proud and happy folks maintain they never really became adults (or a man or a woman) until they had children. So what does that make me?

Among a galaxy of other things, it makes you a far more responsible person than either my husband or myself, who waited until the kid came.

Probably a lot of the people who say that are clumsily complimenting you, because everyone I know who spends any time with other peoples' kids is struck with how some people just should not be parents. They probably feel as if you have the maturity for it, and they've forgotten in their enthusiasm that part of being mature is not doing things you don't want to do just because you can.

Teresa, the clothes I saw you in were lovely. I lusted most seriously after the batiked duster.

And no, I don't imagine a Girl could have carried it off.

#142 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 06:16 AM:

What might inspirational science fiction mean?

The Perelandra Trilogy (although I like CS Lewis' fantasy better) or Stranger in a Strange Land, although that's not Christian, which apparently inspirational romance has to be.

#143 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:44 AM:

Y'know, any defense of a person who has no problem using a word like "crotch-fruit" for a child reminds me of nothing so much as this: "Someone who is nice to you, but mean to the waiter, is not a nice person."

#144 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 08:27 AM:

Sylvia, it's one thing to be told "You'll change your mind" when you're 20 and saying you don't want kids... although it's still patronizing, at least the people saying it have some reason to think so. I was told it when I was 30. And am still told it, at 35, like suddenly in the next year I'm going to fall madly in love and change twenty years of belief I'd not be a good mother just in time to have a kid before I get too old to think about having kids....

JvP: I've read one of Wen Spencer's other books; she's a good author and I'll no doubt read more later, which means probably giving any cross-genre works a try as well.

Teresa: I don't get the hostility either. It's one thing to not want children, or to gripe about parents who don't control their kids, or similar things. It's another to assume any parent is terrible and any child is unworthy of existence. I sometimes wonder if any of these people ever stopped to think it was a good thing their parents didn't feel the way they did...

Also, I never understood the concept of 'dressing like a girl'. I'm female, therefore how I dress is dressing like a girl. Seems straightforward enough to me.

#145 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:18 AM:

Karen:

I was thinking a similar thought, and wrote a bit about my life in one of the communes over on the PETA thread.

Tina:

I figure the hostility is just evolution's way of making sure these damaged souls don't reproduce.

#146 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:23 AM:

Everybody needs to vent. Usually one finds a nice close circle of folks who can handle the occasional "I'm surrounded by IDIOTS" blue streak, and leave it at that. Others keep on venting for several reasons: 1) It feels pretty good; 2) One's usually the center of attention when venting, or very close to it; and 3) One tends to get sympathy from like-minded folks, keeping the focus on that person and justifying one's need to vent (thus negating at least a bit of guilt one might have had about being so angry in the first place). Because this is a very nice ego-soothing process (and a stress-relieving one too), some folks don't like it when others try to stop their little venting party. Hence the hostility. It's also very easy to get hostile when venting. Also, shutting down the rational intruder gives one a sense of empowerment and importance - and another excuse to start the venting process all over again. I'm not too surprised that there are those who never want to break out of this cycle, thus the hostility never goes away.

(Very random aside: I usually use "you" instead of "one". I tried using "one" because I didn't want to give the impression I was singling out anyone here. Using "one" felt very odd. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.)

#147 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:27 AM:

Mary Kay:

>You're a much nicer person than I am Melissa. This would have enraged me. [being left out of 93adult94 things]

I think it didn92t piss me off largely because I spent very little time thinking about it and it wasn92t that important to me. The major family affairs, I was always part of, I got invited to every holiday dinner, every general family event, etc. Once or twice a year there would be something I wasn92t part of, and I could live with that. It wasn92t like there was a female cabal within the family . . . and my younger adult female cousins were also excluded. Everyone92s included now; the system broke down a few years ago, after one of my younger cousins married but while the other was still single.

Also, I never got attitude from my parents. I knew that my parents still worried about me, just as they worried about my (also adult) brother, but that was part of being a parent, I figured, and otherwise, I was an adult in their eyes, consulted about financial, political, and familial matters.

(I should mention, as a side note, that my parents have been very cool with the whole single mother thing and that my mother recently suggested I write a letter to the NYTimes in response to a letter on lesbian marriage that said, essentially, Women can't raise children effectively without a man. Mom said, "You can tell them it's just not so!" which I considered to be a high compliment. I suggested that _she_ write instead, as the grandmother of a child being raised "without a man," but she wasn't comfortable with the idea.)

> Ironically, I have probably given way more thought to the question of whether or not to reproduce than any of the people I grew up with gave to having children.

Me, too. (One of the things that most gets my goat when people slam single mothers by choice is the idea that we somehow woke up one morning and on the spur of the moment decided to become parents.)

> You know, when I told my mother I had decided not to have children her reaction was, "I must not have been a good mother." Because obviously there was something wrong with me and as my mother it was her fault.

My mother feels this way about my lack of a long-term partner. Though she voices it less nowadays.

Mris:

Nice post.

Xopher:

> a few years ago, a survey discovered that 70% of adults with children say they wouldn't have children if they had it to do over.

I remember that survey. I remember thinking at the time that a lot of the dissatisfaction and unhappiness probably has to do with the stresses and strains children can bring to the relationship between their parents. Raising kids is hard work (not that parents are to be praised as martyrs, and indeed, just living is hard enough work), and in many families, the changes children will bring are not sufficiently thought out or prepared for ahead of time. If parents have different parenting philosophies, that further complicates matters. And kids can be a lot more expensive that you expect, and I92m not talking about the sort of families that buy every gadget or toy or stick the children into a zillion enrichment classes. So making ends meet adds to the strain. Every married/partnered parent I know complains about the lack of time they have for their partner. And complains about the partner not doing his/her share of the work of running the family.

In my single mothers community, we were a bit stunned by the quoted figure. It92s not true for us, though there are days when we want to drop our kids on their little pointy heads. But being a single parent by choice is easier, in certain specific ways, than being a partnered or divorced parent.

PiscusFiche:

>Of course, I come from the state of Utah where you are on the shelf at 23 or so, and since I am not married, my viability as a human being to many distant relations hinges first upon my getting married, AND then producing offspring.

This situation still obtains in many families, Utahan/Mormon or not. My father92s mother was married at 18, though my grandfather proposed to her when she was 16. My mother92s mother was married at 18-20 (I don92t remember right now). My mother was 21 when she married, right out of college; my father was 22. My mother92s next-youngest sister was also married soon after college, also to a young groom. My younger aunt97the one who is only 6 years older than me97didn92t get married until she was in her early 30s, and her husband was of a similar age. My brother was in his mid-30s, his wife a few years younger. My cousins were both in their early-to-mid 30s, and both married men within a few years of them in age but older.

All of the marriages in my generation were considered 93late94 by the older generations of our family, which really expected us to marry by 30, preferably by 25. BTW, in virtually every marriage cited above, children have come along within 2 years of the wedding. The exceptions are my parents (who jokingly blame Korea) and my brother and his wife. One of my cousins was just married in the spring and I know she and her husband want children, but AFAIK they are not pregnant yet.

We are New York Jews and have been in the US for around 100 years.

Most of my daughter92s closest female schoolfriends are American-born Muslims whose families are immigrants from Pakistan. Since they are all only 7-8 years old, it92s a while yet before marriage will become a big topic in their lives. But I suspect there will be a lot of pressure on them to marry 93young.94

Interesting note about Ibizans. I didn92t know that.

#148 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:29 AM:

Tina: I've seen a few people say that while they liked Spencer's Ukiah Oregon books, they thought _Tinker_ was not nearly as good.

(I'm not going to read it, but for purely idiosyncratic reasons, so I can't say myself.)

#149 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 11:36 AM:

Mary Kay -- I just want to say that I'm really sorry that people have given you a lifetime of slack about being childless. It really is just some people, and not everyone though.

Despite coming from a Catholic family, I receive no comments or questions about the fact that my husband and I have no children, and my parents are very accepting of the fact that we are not going to have children.

I have, from others, heard the "You'll change your mind" comment, to which my response is simply to laugh, which quickly ends that subject.

Regarding family gatherings, I don't know if you had considered this, but in my family, gatherings typically happen at the family of those with the youngest (or most) children, and that makes sense to me. Why pack up the kids and travel if you don't have to? I find it much more reasonable to visit my husband's sister & family, then to force them to travel with a 3-year-old for any distance. Yes, it's nice when they visit, but I don't like to travel on holidays, so I don't see why a child would like it any more than I do.

I've taken care of children, and changed diapers, and been responsible. I've also been the recipient of a child's hugs and kisses and love. I know what I'm missing, both good and bad. But it's my choice, and as long as I'm okay with that, it doesn't matter to me what anyone else says.

Those who are adamant on either side of the equation, are just, plain rude.

#150 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 12:02 PM:

Raising kids is hard work (not that parents are to be praised as martyrs, and indeed, just living is hard enough work), and in many families, the changes children will bring are not sufficiently thought out or prepared for ahead of time.

I never went as far as wishing we hadn't had our children. (I am careful not to wish things I don't mean -- I would not want to have done without the joys.)

There were, however, plenty of moments, especially when they were small, when I sincerely wished that children came with an 'Off' switch on their foreheads. Or maybe a 'One-Hour Timeout' button, just so I could get a little bit of desperately needed sleep.

#151 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 12:51 PM:
What might inspirational science fiction mean?

I think this has been well answered, but I wanted to plug my favorite religious SF story, Gene Wolfe's "Westwind." It's the only thing I've ever read that made me sorta kinda wish I had religious feelings (said wish doesn't last long after finishing the story, but then I'm a hard case).

As for children... I fully understand why people would choose not to have kids, and why they would be annoyed at people who make comments about that decision. I don't understand the people (none of them posting here, I should note) who seem actively repulsed by the very concept of children. I mean, having children is a basic biological function, not to mention that it's necessary for rather a lot of people to do it (if perhaps not as many as actually do, currently). I get the feeling that the child-loathers think of kids as some annoying new invention, like cellphones with musical ring tones, which will go away if treated with enough disdain.

#152 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:00 PM:

Kellie, I was going to say something about the concept of venting vs what I think these people are doing, but then Dan Blum came along and said basically what I was thinking about.

In other words: It's not that they're venting about specific irritating situations, it's that they're treating the entire concept of children as somehow repulsive.

(God knows I'm the last person who could complain about venters; just take a look at my livejournal sometime.)

#153 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:07 PM:

Wait, you mean if we all got together... we could abolish cellphone musical ring tones?

#154 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Tina, I would agree that they're treating the entire concept of children as repulsive. However, I think the PBZ community was set up as a venting/pity party/griping community, not as one to suggest and/or discuss the various philosophical reasons for not having children. Had it been the latter, Poppy's question would've been taken seriously and answered honestly. But it was the former, and Poppy would've needed to say something like, "Children are annoying little germ-bags, etc...." in order for her question to have been treated differently.

#155 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 03:54 PM:

adamsj- I would love to know more about your commune experience, but I get lost in threads. I read very slowly...

warning - this is an emotional off-load blurt: I haven't piped up on the kid issue because for the past four days I've been helping my son take care of his friend, whose SO shot herself to death. Perhaps being a good mother does not extend to cleaning blood and brain tissue from a relative stranger's bathroom walls? My eldest, a girl, is on alert to go to Bagdad and my middle son died of a brain tumor at three years old. All I can say about parenthood is it isn't easy and it doesn't get any easier when they move out.

After years as a CPS social worker, I'd say the people who know they don't want kids are brilliant and if you think you do and want to be sure, become a foster parent for ten minutes.

#156 ::: Diane ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 04:16 PM:

Karen that is probably some of the best advice I've ever seen. I hope that things get better for you and your family soon.

#157 ::: Kim Wells ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:07 PM:

Whew. it took a while to catch up on this one, too! I must make a point of re-visiting more often!

This is a bit of a thread hijack since people are talking about other stuff by now, so sorry!

Teresa asked: Just curious: what kind of "reasonable & moderate" is that? What are the rules there?

The particular moderator I'm thinking of will allow someone to post a little off topic, but will often move something that properly belongs in another "folder" to that folder, along with letting anyone interested know where the topic went. There are "characters" on the board like "Ranch Dressing"-- clearly an alias created by someone being silly, and often, long long conversations go on with Ranch dressing commenting on how it wants to, say, cover all the posters with gooey goodness. And it's funny, and we laugh, and we go about our conversation. The moderator realizes that in that particular section of the board, silly "characters" are part of what makes it fun for us. But the board has a special folder for "flame wars" that says "do it here and keep the rest of us out of it."

Since the board is located on Neil Gaiman's website sometimes people will pop in and spam the different folders with a question that clearly wants us to answer, say, a question for an essay they are writing in school, or something. We had a particularily rude one once call us all jerks for welcoming them. There really aren't a lot of rules, but mostly, we just try to be nice. The one thing I've seen as a "guideline" rather than rule is that we welcome people with "gifts" when they show up, try to get them into a conversation, and then hang out and chat with each other. It's a bit like a very large rotating party.

But the main rule is that you should post to the proper folder-- keep it on topic-- but when something falls out of line, the moderater quite reasonably moves it to the right place, and explains his reasoning. Then, when a rude person does show up, the moderator doesn't become rude in return, and actually allows for quite a lot of leeway.

Anyway, most of the board posters there are pretty capable of handling the infrequent jerk and encouraging them to be elsewhere. So that's what I meant by moderate-- he lands somewhere between "ban instantly and delete all record of said person existing, then spam other boards/forums where someone is talking about it" and "totally ignore problems till everyone who really wants to belong leaves and finds some other place to be."

:)

And I have to say, on a final note, that I'm insanely jealous that I never get long comment threads in my blog. I wish I got comments at all!! I realize I don't have a following like yours (intelligent and wonderful as everyone is.... ) but I wish I could! :)

#158 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Karen,

Mostly I was just whining about how hippies (of whom I was one at the time) expected me to fix them vegetarian food while expecting me not to eat (for instance) tasty bambi brautwurst.

Kim,

I get long comment threads in my weblog.

Well, at least I did before I started killing comment spam.

#159 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:43 PM:

Teresa: I just don't understand the hostility. I've taken more flak for not dressing like a proper girl than I've ever taken for not having children, but I don't get together with other fashion-averse types while we stoke our communal fury over the existence of haute couture and Vogue.

Can somebody explain this?

YMMV, as I'm not good at guessing other people's motivations ... but consider "They just get married 'cause there's nothing else to do" (Jagger/Richards, "Sitting on the Fence"). As comments around yours make clear, everyone has second thoughts about children once they've been had(...); I suspect some people (especially those chivvied into early marriage and reproduction, as referenced in several comments), accepted that this was what they had to do to be considered adults -- and that people who are obviously adult and not childed are a direct challenge to the feeling that this road was hard but the only thing to do. A demonstration that one's lifestyle is not necessarily the only choice can be very threatening; it may make one feel like a sucker, at which point snarling at the debunker is easier than snarling at all the people who set one up (cf the way wannabes won't listen to exposees of pay-to-publish scams?). I sometimes wonder if that's part of the force behind the current viciousness about gay marriage (anent which, today's Boston Globe reports that among the many briefs filed by the deadline was one urging civil unions as "the lesser of two evils"): people who feel (unconsciously -- they'll never acknowledge this even to themselves) they were forced down a path resenting others who are anything less than dreadfully unhappy with a different path.

Karen: After years as a CPS social worker, I'd say the people who know they don't want kids are brilliant and if you think you do and want to be sure, become a foster parent for ten minutes.

See Kornbluth, "The Education of Tigress McArdle" (would-be parents have to care for a robot baby to get licensed). A few years ago I read that something like this was being done for real (think of a Tamagotchi(sp?) with a human range of behaviors), as a way of getting through to some of the not-really-adults who thought having a child was a passkey to being an adult.

Tina: I like being able to return them to their parents when my patience wears out.

Many years ago I was an acolyte. (Many years ago.) After a baptism, the substitute minister from downtown (definitely an iconoclast in our edge community) explained that he'd found the purpose of the long dagging on the robe worn during baptism: a couple of loops around the neck and a thumb in the end make a variable mute -- so the baptisee can't protest cold water (or any other indignity) until it's handed back to the parents.

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:11 PM:

Karen, a brilliant suggestion (re fostering first). All good wishes for your family; strength and honor to your son for the support he's giving his friend, and to you for the support you're giving both of them.

CHip, at the church where I sing, the dousing with cold water almost always results in the baptee crying. The baptor (hey, it rhymes with 'raptor') then raises the baptee above hir head and shows hir around the congregation (gathered around the font), who applaud loudly.

The crying almost always stops at this point. Last Sunday, one of the three babies looked furious at the dousing, but got a very thoughtful expression at the applause; I characterized it as "You bastard! How f***ing DARE you...wait. THIS is cool."

#161 ::: davey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:14 PM:

Further notes to Kim's, since the neilgaiman.com bulletin boards are another place where I lurk and occasionally post. (Hi Kim!) It's much more of a free-for-all than here (for example); since it's bb style and anyone can post a new topic, the times when almost everyone is reading and posting in the same 2-3 focused discussions are much less frequent there than in ML.

In two years I've seen one recurrent banning (there's a persistent troll, he's come in multiple successive times under new names and accounts but his posting style and attack style are so distinctive that some of the regulars can now spot him in 3-4 posts, at which point the moderators make various checks to determine probable-identity and when they're reasonably sure it's him he's banned again), and one specific banning for continued inappropriate and intentionally abusive language after several requests to be more civil. There have also been a few situations in which a discussion has become intensely heated and closer to personal attack than most of the participants are comfortable with, and a poster has agreed to go away and cool off for a while after off-line discussion with the lead moderator.

The basic rule seems to be 'be civil and behave as if you respect everyone else's opinion'. As Kim notes, there's a designated Flame Wars section where that doesn't apply. (Even there, the moderators keep an eye on discussion, but it's agreed that everyone enters FW topics at their own risk.) There are fairly hard rules against obscene language and frontal-nudity displays in all topics; the latter was discussed and resolved on the boards--Neil probably remembers a query from the mod about it--because many of the European posters couldn't figure out what some of the US posters were fussing about. (I think the issue arose when someone put a photo of a local advertisement into their post to illustrate a point, and it was artistically excellent and no-buts explicit. The final decision was that photos are out but links with labels are fine.)

Also, as Kim said, it's largely self-regulated. The lead mod is generally willing to let people hang themselves in the eyes of the regulars before he'll step in. The more-recently-appointed second mod is more conservative but he's been called on it a few times and has relaxed a bit lately.

-----

I'm realizing that I evaded the probable when-are-you-having-children pressure by being married at 25 and divorced at 27, 300 miles from my immediate family. (I didn't visit often, and still don't). My parents and other relatives always asked if I were seeing anyone, and welcomed the gentlemen friends I occasionally brought to celebrations, but that early divorce apparently bought me breathing space. The potential pressure is long past: I was 36 at my second wedding (children wouldn't have been impossible, but my folks didn't even ask); both of my sisters have children, and two of my three first cousins; and all of my grandparents are dead.

-----

Karen, that's a heavy load. I hope it eases for you and your family soon.

#162 ::: Kass Fireborn ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Kate Nepveu:
Tina: I've seen a few people say that while they liked Spencer's Ukiah Oregon books, they thought _Tinker_ was not nearly as good.

It's entirely possible it wasn't; I seem to recall that there was an editing snafu with it. Something about anticipating it would be given more work after she turned it in, because all her other novels had, and either an editor change or a scheduling thing resulting in it not getting battered, beaten, and improved before the presses. I can't swear that that's absolutely accurate, though, since I can't even remember for certain where I heard it, though the Pittsburgh NaNoWriMo TGIO or WorD Anniversary Parties seem the most likely suspects.

At any rate, I'm delighted to see Wen was nominated, if for no other reason than my writing/critiquing group did Alien Taste and so it gives me hope. Of course I'm also happy for less selfish reasons; she's a nice lady and a good writer. I haven't gotten my hands on Tinker yet, though. (The Pittsburgh Library system appears to be waking up about her and has actually ordered a good many copies of her book--which is more than I can say for the Ukiah Oregon stuff, irritating considering how they're all set here and she is, despite living elsewhere now, still more or less a local author--but they're all In Processing.)


Sylvia Li:
Wait, you mean if we all got together... we could abolish cellphone musical ring tones?

This sounds like a fabulous plan and I propose we enact it at once.

#163 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:26 AM:

if for no other reason than my writing/critiquing group did Alien Taste and so it gives me hope

Cool! I gulped down _Alien Taste_ one afternoon and then went out and bought both sequels--partly this was the heady joy of immersion in a new universe, but partly they're just fun. I'm looking forward to the next one.

#164 ::: Catherine Rain ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 06:30 PM:

I will never quite be able to look at the slogan "It's a child, not a choice" the same way again.

#165 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 08:34 PM:

The rules and set-up of the NeilGaiman.com discussion board sound similar to the GEnie SFRT. I wonder if some fo the GEnie sysops migrated over there?

I remember the introduction to the flamewar topic on the SFRT had a warning something like: "Patrons will be searched for knives and guns on entering. If they don't have knives and guns, knives and guns will be issued."

#166 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2004, 07:31 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post ::: January 09, 2004, 06:00 PM:

Someone came that line on Harlan Ellison once .he pointed out 6 mistakes the critic had made about the text including that he hadn't noticed the female lead was black

#167 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2004, 02:29 PM:

from jonathan: "Seems similar to that old story (anyone remember it better?) about the poet who wandered into a critics’ debate on his poetry."

I believe I read something from Isaac Asimov some time ago. He sat in on a lecuture about his stories, and walked up to the prof after the class to explain what he really meant. He was told that he was only the author, and what people took from the text didn't necessarily have much to do with what Asimov intended to put there. Could be wrong though. Maybe it was someone else. I'm sure it was in an sf context, but it's probably happened more than once.

As to the childfree stance. I'm 22 and I've felt for years that reproduction wasn't an option for me. I figure that I can perpetuate my memes without passing on the genes. I've been repeatedly told that I will get over it, that I would make a fantastic mother, and I will change my mind one day. This even comes from otherwise sane family members and close friends.

My mother is one of six kids, my father is one of four, and both of them want to be grandparents. Somehow, none of my siblings are in a hurry to comply (thanks be, as infants should not have infants of their own, let them grow up before they choose). Both of my sisters intend to adopt.

I believe that family is important. But the definition of family can vary hugely. I have an extended extended family of almost-aunts, uncles and cousins who are in no way related to me. The guy my dad was in boy scouts with and his family, he and his wife are my godparents. My mom's best friends from school and their families (husband, kids, sisters, their kids, their parents who treat me as another grandchild). And then there are friends of my own who might as well be family, and I treat them as such.

So when I slip the fact that I don't intend to have kids and get the hollow stare, as if I have somehow betrayed some sanctified family values, it's sharp. When my offer of explanation is brushed off with a "she'll grow out of it," it's distressing. I like kids fine. As I get older, I intend to be a fantastic mad auntie to all of those in my expanding family. But I will not own children.

#168 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2004, 01:54 PM:

Sundre - I won't presume to point out to you that you will get out of it - my crystal ball runs Windows and has a virus and therefore I am temporarily out of the predicting-the-future biz.

However, you may well reconsider your decision. There were several things I would sure, when I was 22, that I would never do, and then I went and did them.

#169 ::: sundre ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 01:04 AM:

Mitch - There are many things I doubt and only a few that I am sure of. I do reconsider my decision every time I see my cousin and her two boys, but I have not changed my mind as yet. Partly because I've already been a substitute parent for most of my (admittedly unfinished) life. I've been the other mom for years, and will be able to stop any day now. I think I'll take a short break before I seriously ponder starting up again.
You never know. Stranger things have happened.

#170 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 03:07 AM:

Being a substitute parent can certainly burn one out on parenting. A friend was shared in the parenting of younger cousins when she was in her teens and living in a large extended family. Later, she moved to a commune (60s. Hippie.) and (she told me) some of the women in the commune had children and were neglectful mothers, so my friend shared in the parenting of those kids too. Later still, she got married, and when it was time for her to decide whether to have children of her own, she decided she'd pretty much had enough.

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